HARARE – He might have been an unused substitute in Liverpool’s Carabao Cup triumph on Sunday, but Trey Nyoni has gained the great admiration of a former international from Zimbabwe, homeland of the Reds teenage prodigy’s parents.

16-year-old midfielder Nyoni – who was born in England to parents from Zimbabwe – was on the bench the entire match when a depleted Liverpool side beat Chelsea 1-0 in the final at Wembley Stadium as Virgil van Dijk’s last-gasp header secured them the Carabao Cup.

Trey Nyoni (standing, second from right) celebrates Carabao Cup success with his fellow young Liverpool teammates.

Nyoni’s inclusion in Liverpool’s match-day side aroused a great deal of interest in the Southern African nation and although he didn’t get to make his first-team debut for the Merseyside giants in the end, ex-Zimbabwe defender George Mbwando has seen enough to be impressed.

“The next big thing in football is going to come from Zimbabwe…..I had a chance of watching  Trey Nyoni on Liverpool TV playing for the reserves…ummm bad news,” Mbwando, a Liverpool supporter, remarked in a social media post on Monday.

“The guy is good, just have patience…we will see him soon….a typical box to box defensive midfielder…very comfortable on the ball, perfect tactical approach, perfect technique, he has almost everything. Right now he can easily play in the first team…a perfect defensive linkman who is going to be something big and he is 16. Remember this post. Congratulations young man.”

An inverted fullback who was a firm favourite with Zimbabwe’s fans in his playing days – Mbwando featured for his country in two Africa Cup of Nations editions in 2004 and 2006 and spent a decade turning out for different clubs in Germany, where he now lives permanently.  

Multiple-capped ex-Zimbabwe international, a Liverpool fan, played at the 2004 and 2006 Africa Cup of Nations Cup tournaments.

The 48-year-old Mbwando, however, thinks the African country has little chance of success in persuading Nyoni to consider an international career with Zimbabwe.

“The sky is the limit, unfortunately the British will not let this one go ….because if you are 16 years and sitting next to (Mohamed) Salah you must be something special,” commented Mbwando.

Mixing with his vernacular Shona language of Zimbabwe, he added:

Dei takarongeka taakuto counter ma jewels edu angozara EPL yese (if we were well organised as a nation, we should have already be counting our jewels spread across the EPL). But vanonotamba pai, ground hatina…kana kochi (but where will they play on in Zimbabwe? We don’t even have a ground, we don’t even have a coach!) I wish you all the best young man. We love you more because you are playing for the right team and you are from Zimbabwe! Congratulations!”

Mbwando was making scathing reference to a current stadium ban imposed on Zimbabwe four years ago, due to substandard facilities, which forced the country to host Nigeria in Rwanda in a World Cup qualifier in November. The Warriors, as the national side is called, are also without a full-time coach at the moment after the federation’s temporary leadership announced it would not retain Portuguese Baltemar Brito, who took charge of the team on caretaker basis for two drawn World Cup qualifiers against Rwanda and Nigeria last November.

Despite all these problems, the national federation has been on a mission to entice good players of Zimbabwean heritage, born and bred abroad, with some success.

Impressive London-born wing-back Jordan Zemura – who is now with Serie A club Udinese having earlier helped Bournemouth gain English Premiership promotion – has quickly established himself as a key player for Zimbabwe following his Warriors debut in November 2020.

Leeds-born midfielder Andy Rinomhota was Zimbabwe’s outstanding player on debut in the 1-1 draw with Nigeria in the World Cup qualifier last November.


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