ZIMBABWE international Marshal Munetsi has been praised for showing young African players the right way of getting to the top of professional European football from humble beginnings.
For a young man, who grew up in the under-privileged suburb of Mabvuku in Harare, Munetsi has kept his head down and worked his way to the top of French football with Stade de Reims and now rubbing shoulders with top stars like Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Edson Cavani, Dimitri Payet, Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembele.
Last month, the 23-year-old Zimbabwean was given a contract extension until 2024 by the Ligue 1 side after impressing in his first season with the club.
He made a total of 21 appearances for his new side which finished fifth with 41 points from 28 games winning 10, drawing 11 and losing seven times before the Ligue 1 season was cancelled due to the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
After initially getting into organised football with Ali Sundowns and then Friendly Academy here in Zimbabwe, Munetsi then moved to South Africa with second tier side Ubuntu Cape Town as a 16-year-old in 2015.
From there he was signed by Orlando Pirates at the start of the 2016-17 season but the Soweto giants loaned him to fellow Super Diski side Baroka FC.
Munetsi did not disappoint as he starred in the Bakgakga midfield before the Sea Robbers recalled him back to Mayfair after only one season in Limpopo.
Getting into the team at Pirates was not easy as he had to sit it out for at least six months before former coach
Micho finally gave him a chance while playing at centre back.
Munetsi did not moan about the positional change as all he wanted to do was play football at all costs.
“I had to sit out six months in the 2017/18 season without being registered or playing. It was a huge blow for me personally as a player as I was trying to make some strides after Baroka,” Munetsi said in a recent interview.
“And when they finally gave me a chance they said they wanted to use me as a central defender, but for me personally, I just wanted to play and I didn’t really care where I would be playing. After that a lot of people thought I was a centre-back.”
After finally grabbing his chance in the sea Robbers side, Munetsi also started knocking on the door of the Zimbabwe national team.
He became an integral part of the Warriors side and helped the team qualify for 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.
Shortly before the start of the tournament, Reims made their move and signed the Zimbabwean and he has now gone onto be a regular feature in the team both in Ligue 1 and Coupe de France.
With the issue of salaries and pay cut now at the centre of focus in world football due to the coronavirus (Covid-19), Munetsi’s name is now at the centre of the conversation in South Africa.
Munetsi’s former teammate at Pirates Justin Shonga has been shut out at the first team ever since the arrival of German coach Josef Zinnbauer.
Tanzania club Young African wanted to sign the Zambian but the deal fell through due to Shonga’s huge demands.
“I have always given the example of Marshall Munetsi. That boy was a workaholic, disciplined, he was working hard all the time,” said former Baroka CEO Morgan Mammila.
“He was earning little that time; he was not earning enough. He was one of the people who were earning less money at the time he was with Ubuntu Cape Town and Baroka.
“Remember when we signed him for Baroka, we loaned him from Pirates. When he was offered to us, I said this is a good player, I know. But he proved that you can start small, and where is he now? Those guys who were earning double his salary, where are they now?”
Despite starting in the lower rungs of football in Zimbabwe and South Africa, Munetsi’s hard work and professionalism has paid off with an improved contract at Stade de Reims.