Zimbabwe international striker Nyasha Mushekwi is knocking hard on the door of the lucrative Chinese Super League following a rich vein of scoring form for his Chinese League One football side Dalian Yifang. BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Mushekwi hit a treble at the weekend to take the march ahead of his main rival for the golden boot award Luis Fabiano.
His team battled from behind to claim a 4-3 victory over Shangai Shenxin on Sunday.
The bustling forward celebrated the hat-trick together with his 29th birthday, taking his goal tally to 19, one ahead of former Brazil striker Fabiano.
Mushekwi scored in the 37th, 73rd and 90th minutes as Dalian Yifan secured a crucial victory in their battle for promotion into the money-spinning Chinese Super League.
Two teams get promoted to the cash-rich top-flight, but with Serbian coach Milinko Pantic seemingly preferring Mushekwi as the torch bearer of the attack ahead of such top forwards like Sierra Leone striker Mohammed Bangura — a former Celtic player — it’s highly likely the Zimbabwean will still break into the elite Chinese Super League next season even if his club fails to get promotion.
Mushekwi, one of the heroes of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) campaign, shot to the top goalscorers list with 19 goals, one ahead of Fabiano, who plays for log leaders Tianjin Quanjian, thus underlying his continuous rise into becoming one of the game’s top forwards.
The race between Mushekwi and the 35-year-old former FC Porto and Sevilla striker has been intriguing thus far and could stay this competitive as the race for promotion heats up.
Fabiano played for Brazil at the 2010 World Cup, but a year before that he claimed the golden boot at the Confederations Cup.
The fact that Mushekwi has also pushed into the shade such players like Brazilian Bouvie Japa, who plays his club football for Meizhou Kejia and has scored just 12 goals, and former Everton and Hull City striker Nikica Jelavic, who turns out for Beijing Renhe, speaks volumes about the Zimbabwe international.
Dalian Yifang now sit on position 5 in the Chinese League 1, five points behind the top-placed team.
They have won 12 matches, drawn three and lost eight with seven more games left in the season. Tianjin Quanjian lead the pack with 44 points from the same number of matches in a very tight race, but Guizhou Zhicheng and Qingdao Huanghai are in second and third place, respectively, with the same number of points.
That Mushekwi has managed to eclipse strikers in the teams that are better poised for promotion at the top is testimony of how well he has played in his first season in the league.
While the League One bears rich rewards, the top-tier league is where the real money is and it is certainly where Mushekwi’s eyes are firmly focused.
Colombian Jackson Martinez of Guangzhou Evergrande is one of the highest-paid players in the league earning $14 million annually.
Mushekwi’s exploits will come as good news to Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa as he prepares for the 2017 Afcon finals to be held in Gabon in January.
Another Warriors striker, Knowledge Musona, has also had an explosive start to the season in Belgium where he has scored two goals for KV Oostende already although he is now being played in a deep-lying midfield role.
He played a huge part in his team’s 1-1 draw against Zulte Waregem.
Defender Costa Nhamoinesu also played the entire 90 minutes at the weekend as his team Sparta Praha beat Jablonec 3-0 on Friday.
The Warriors are one of the early teams to qualify for the continental soccer showcase after mauling Malawi 3-0 in Harare in their previous match and while their last match against Guinea in Group L in Conakry on September 3 is now a dead rubber, Pasuwa wants to field a full-strength squad for the clash.
Zimbabwe will also be taking the match against Guinea as a dress rehearsal for the Gabon tournament.