Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWEAN defender Jordan Zemura feels he got an early Christmas present after putting pen to paper a new contract with English Championship football club AFC Bournemouth.
The 21-year-old, who made his league debut for the Cherries on Saturday, will remain at Vitality Stadium until 2022.
The deal comes after a breakthrough first few months of the season for Zemura, who made his first-team debut in September’s Carabao Cup win over Crystal Palace.
He went on to feature in the next round against Manchester City, coming on as a first-half substitute for Lloyd Kelly at the Etihad Stadium.
This past weekend, Zemura became the latest academy graduate to make his league debut in 2020/21 when he replaced Adam Smith in the 5-0 win over Huddersfield Town.
The left-back, who has netted four times for the Under-21s this season, has additionally seen his performances catch the eye of international scouts.
After a sustained campaign to convince British-born players to come back home and play for the Zimbabwe national team, Zemura honoured his first call up last month for the back-to-back African Cup of Nations qualifiers against Algeria.
Previously, he had faced challenges with his passport.
Zemura’s national team debut came just two days before his 21st birthday, starting the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Algeria.
He followed that up with a second cap three days later, as the Warriors fought back to draw 2-2 with the Desert Foxes of Algeria to maintain second place in Group H of the 2021 AFCON qualifiers.
The fullback said his contract was welcomed by his family, including his father Sam, who has encouraged him constantly to improve and also commit everything to play for Zimbabwe.
“My mum was really happy and my dad was more on the father-son vibe. “So What’s next? What are you going to do to get the bulk contract? What are you going to do to improve?”
“Even my little brothers were buzzing. It feels like more of a Christmas present and birthday present. I think the whole family was really excited for me and it’s part of how far I have come,” said Zemura.
But another Zimbabwe-born defender Tivonge Rushesha is set to have a bleak Christmas. The Swansea defender is expected to spend a lengthy period on the sidelines after suffering a serious knee injury during training with his English Championship side.
The club announced on their website that the 18-year-old will be sidelined for an extended period after damaging his anterior cruciate ligament.
“Unfortunately Tivonge has picked up a bad knee injury in training,” said Swansea head coach Steve Cooper.
“He’s a good young player who we like a lot and has been part of our first-team training all season.
“We’re gutted about that because he’s such a good lad. But we’ll make sure we look after him and I am sure he’ll look after himself.” Rushesha, who was voted Swansea’s Best Under-23 Player last season, was elevated from the development side this year. He made his senior debut for Swansea in the EFL Cup last season and is highly regarded at the Liberty Stadium.
The right-back made his first-team debut against Cambridge United in the Carabao Cup last term, and has been included in matchday squads this season.
He has also been targeted by Zimbabwe national team coaches to play for the Warriors despite having featured for Wales at Under-17 level.
The 18-year-old was born in Zimbabwe in 2002 but moved to Britain the following year. He has come through the Swansea’’s academy.
Cooper said he will be missed for the rest of the season. Fellow Zimbabwe international Tendayi Darikwa, who plays for Nottingham Forest, spent over a year out after suffering the same type of injury just before the start of the 2019-20 season. “It’s an ACL — unfortunately quite common but a serious injury. But it’s one that players can recover from and I’m sure he will.
“He’s got such a good attitude. I’m sure he’ll be one of the ones who recover even stronger,” said Cooper.