From not being able to afford football boots to gracing the Premier League – the story of Aston Villa’s smiling midfielder Marvelous Nakamba is truly humbling. For the Zimbabwean owes everything to his hardworking mum, Charity, a maid who spent months at a time hundreds of miles away in South Africa to help support her family at their one-room rented home in Bulawayo. The Villa star’s quirky first name was born thanks to parents Charity and Anthony who, Nakamba admitted, were so excited that they called him Marvelous because, well, it was marvelous news.
Marvelous Nakamba said “I was born in Hwange but grew up in Bulawayo , the second-largest city in Zimbabwe. Life was not so easy but, with football, it made me enjoy life. It helped me a lot. Football kept me out of other things, it was not an easy life. It made everything look easy because I was playing football. My mother was working in South Africa so she could support me, buying me football boots and everything, my first boots were Puma. She was there for me. She’d come back home every three or four months to visit for two, three weeks after being at work and did that again and again. She had to do that to provide for the family. I stayed with my dad, Anthony. It helped me focus more, to give everything to succeed in football for my family, for everyone around me. It helped me grow up. To be satisfied with what I have, to give hunger to what I want, giving everything for my family. My mother was a maid in South Africa. My younger brother, Junior, was so young, staying with my auntie in another city, Victoria Falls. In football, there are no limits, there’s no limit for room for improvement, it’s about giving everything,” explained Nakamba, knowing just how far he’s come in life. “I was doing what I loved, playing with friends. The pitches were difficult, playing in the streets. Before it was like playing in the sand. To help that dream, you said, ‘OK, if we can do it here, then there is possibilities to do it on good pitches’. Everyone is looking up to me. Every time I go home it’s like impossible is nothing, you just need to believe. You have the three Ds: discipline, dedication and determination. They are the keys. Everyone follows the Premier League. They were very happy for me coming to the best league. Peter Ndlovu is someone I know very well, someone I look up to and, every time I go home, I visit him. I was with him back in the off season. He’s a real role model. Also, I speak to Benjani who played for City and Portsmouth. [Ndlovu] was encouraging me to push hard in Belgium so I could go to a better league and he was preferring England, hoping and willing I could make it. He said he would like me to go to England, it would be best for career. I must continue to work hard. So far so good. Everything has been fantastic. There’s always room for improvement. I’ll push and push myself and get better and better. My teammate’s have done everything for me. Jacky [Grealish] was speaking to me in training and John [McGinn] as well. The group is fantastic, we’re all there for each other.”
Back to life currently in Birmingham, though, and Nakamba is waiting patiently for the Premier League to return. Last summer’s £11m signing has spent many an hour chatting to Dean Smith via video link, with the gaffer showing the good and bad of Nakamba’s game to date. The softly-spoken 25-year-old has kept reiterating the importance of “pushing and pushing” himself, a mantra he’s been doing ever since playing the beautiful game on the streets and sandy pitches back in Bulawayo, the birth place of Coventry City legend Peter Ndlovu.
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