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Steven Gerrard might give Nakamba lifeline after huge blow

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BY JOHN TOWNLEY

Marvelous Nakmaba has quickly become the forgotten man in Aston Villa’s squad just nine months after being focal to Steven Gerrard’s bright start in Premier League management.

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The Zimbabwean played back-to-back 90 minutes for the first time in over two years when he starred in Villa’s impressive wins over Brighton and Crystal Palace in Gerrard’s first two games in charge last year.

Playing a key role in Gerrard’s system, Nakamba stepped up and helped Villa escape a wretched five-match losing rut.

“For me it’s always about the collective, as a team, if we do well as a team then afterwards, personal (plaudits) as well,” the midfielder said after winning the man of the match award for his display in the 2-1 win at Selhurst Park. “It doesn’t matter like that to me, as long as the team does well, it’s more important for me.”

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Nakamba started three more games under Gerrard: against Manchester City, Leicester City and Liverpool, before being handed a cruel injury blow at Anfield that would disrupt the best form he had shown in claret and blue since making the switch from Club Brugge in the summer of 2019.

He missed four months of action after recovering from knee surgery which is the longest injury absence of his career.

The 28-year-old said during his rehabilitation: “Injuries are frustrating at any time, but I’d just won the Player of the Month for the club and I was getting more game time.

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Steven Gerrard and his new team came in and I’m grateful for the chance I got from them.

“I was enjoying the training and improving. Unfortunately, I got the injury and now I have to work hard on coming back stronger.”

Villa’s luck with injuries has not improved over the last month with new signing Diego Carlos ruled out for the majority of the season and Boubacar Kamara set to mis roughly two months of action after sustaining a knee injury of his own.

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It could open the door for Nakamba to win his place back in Gerrard’s squad after being used sparingly since his return from injury back in April.

Nakamba has only been included in Villa’s match day squad for three of the club’s opening seven Premier League games, while he didn’t travel with the team to face Bolton Wanderers in the Carabao Cup.

With Kamara set to miss Villa’s next eight games before the World Cup, Gerrard could turn to Luiz to play a holding midfield role, while Nakamba offers defensive stability too.

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Speaking on the impact of Nakamba in the early stages of his tenure, Gerrard said: “He’s been fantastic, he’s trained extremely well.

“ He’s been really open, his two performances have been outstanding. We were aware of Marvelous before we came in, but he’s somebody who has really stood up and jumped out, he’s basically said in the two weeks, ‘’I’m here, I want to contribute, I want to be available’.

“He’s still young, he can get better. He’s around the right people for that to happen, he’s in the right environment for that. We’re really pleased to have him.”

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And Nakamba was indeed a key component in the opening games of the Gerrard era.

In the first two games against Brighton and Crystal Palace Nakamba recorded seven tackles, two blocks, two interceptions and a 92 per cent pass accuracy.

In those two fixtures, Villa limited their opponents to seven shots per game, a 0.65 expected goals (xG) value and twelve shot creating actions.

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Following his injury, Nakamba’s absence was felt as Luiz was forced to operate in a deeper role to the number eight position that he can flourish in.

When he did return to fitness, Gerrard was delighted to have him back in contention to play games.

“[I am] extremely happy because when we came into this job, we had the right boost and bounce, and we found a bit of consistency in the team early on. Marv was a really big part of that,” Gerrard said.

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“He’s still got a bit to go in terms of where he’s at physically. But the part he played in how we wanted the team to look, he’s been missed. We can’t get him up to speed quick enough.

“This week, we’ve pushed him and he’s had extra training. He’s an important player for us.

“So, when we get him back capable of 90 minutes at this level, I’m sure he’ll be a big help to the team.” – BirminghamLive

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Speeding into the spotlight: Tsessebe makes rare appearance in Panda Masuie Forest

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IMAGE: Wild Is Life and ZEN

BY NOKUTHABA DLAMINI

In a groundbreaking discovery, the Wild is Life Trust and Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) have spotted a rare and elusive species in the conservation area near Victoria Falls – the Tsessebe, Africa’s fastest antelope.

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Camera traps in the Panda Masuie Forest captured footage of the Tsessebe, which can reach speeds of up to 90km/h.

“Panda Masuie Forest stands as a beacon of hope for biodiversity conservation in the region,” said the Wild is Life Trust in a statement. “Our camera traps revealed a rare species never seen by us in Panda Masuie – a Tsessebe.”

The footage was captured at a waterhole called Jos’ Corner, near the Botswana border. Over the course of just a few days, camera traps also captured images of many other species, including elephant, lion, eland, sable, roan, warthog, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, and ground hornbill.

The trust emphasized the significance of this discovery.

“The Tsessebe’s presence in Panda Masuie sheds light on its behaviour and ecological needs in this specific habitat, underscoring the importance of preserving natural landscapes and maintaining ecological connectivity across vast wilderness areas.”

To the organization , this incredible find is a testament to the power of collaboration and dedication to wildlife conservation.

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In a separate incident, the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust rewilded a terrapin rescued from a poacher’s backpack near Victoria Falls Town.

The organization announced, “We’re thrilled to announce that it has been released into the Victoria Falls National Park, where it can thrive in its natural habitat… Let’s protect and preserve our precious wildlife for generations to come!”

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Zimbabwe’s search for Warriors coach nears end

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BY STAFF REPORTER 

Zimbabwe’s search for a new Warriors coach is nearing its end! After a long wait, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) is set to announce a substantive coach for the senior men’s national team in just a few days.

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This comes after a thorough recruitment process, which included interviews with five top contenders, ZIFA said on Tuesday.

“In parallel, ZIFA is diligently working on compiling the shortlist for the Mighty Warriors Head Coach position,” ZIFA said.

“The interview process for this role is set to be completed by Monday, 29 July.

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“ZIFA remains committed to appointing the most qualified and capable coaches to lead our national teams. We believe that these appointments will significantly contribute to the development and success of Zimbabwean football on the international stage.”

The shortlisted candidates are Gerard Nus, Michael Nees, Marcio Maximo Barcellos, Antoine Hey, and Winfried Schäfer.

FIFA’s commitment to funding the coach’s salary has been a game-changer, allowing ZIFA to attract top talent.

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The association said it is determined to find the best fit to lead the Warriors to victory.

 

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Gastronomy takes center stage as Victoria Falls hosts UN tourism forum

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BY BAYANDA NKATHA

Victoria Falls is set to host the inaugural United Nations Tourism Regional Forum on Gastronomy for Africa this week, a first for the continent.

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The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry expects around 10 000 attendees, particularly on the first day, which will feature an official opening ceremony presided over by President Mnangagwa on Friday.

The conference, taking place at Elephant Hills Golf Course, will then proceed with delegates from around the world.

Zimbabwe was chosen to host the forum in recognition of first lady Auxilia Mnangagwa’s efforts to promote gastronomy tourism through her cookout competition and humanitarian work with the Angel of Hope Foundation.

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This event offers Victoria Falls the opportunity to showcase its capacity for hosting large events, as it has done in the past, and allows locals to benefit from the tourism value chain.

A UN Tourism technical delegation visited Victoria Falls two months ago and was impressed by the city’s readiness.

Tourism Minister Barbara Rwodzi confirmed that preparations are almost complete, saying, “We are ready, with preparations at 98%, and look forward to hosting the event.”

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The forum aims to empower local communities to participate in the tourism sector and benefit from the value chain.

Notably, Victoria Falls co-hosted the UN World Tourism Organisation Summit with Zambia’s Livingstone City in 2013.

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