By SuperSport

Zimbabwe captain Marshall Munetsi will have a major role to play on Tuesday, trying to lift his compatriots for their World Cup qualifier against South Africa.

The former Orlando Pirates utility back returned to the Orlando Stadium last Friday, this time wearing the captain’s armband for Zimbabwe in their Group C clash with Lesotho, but despite his best efforts saw his side defeated by Lesotho.

Zimbabwe captain Marshall Munetsi
Zimbabwe captain Marshall Munetsi

The shock 2-0 victory for the mountain kingdom has set Zimbabwe’s hopes back and sees them needing to bounce back in Bloemfontein when they take on Bafana Bafana in their fourth group game in the preliminaries for the 2026 World Cup in North America.

Munetsi will be very much the focal point of the side, having made a major impact in France, where he moved after his time at Pirates.

He was still a teenager when he moved from Zimbabwe to Ubuntu Cape Town in 2015, then up to the topflight with Baroka for the 2016-17 season before spending two seasons at Pirates.

He was still young and it took a while for Munetsi to bed down a regular place but by the end of the 2018-19 season, it was obvious he was destined for bigger and better things.

Pirates sold him to Stade Reims, where he has now completed five seasons and emerged as the ‘sheriff’ of his club, on whom they are building their squad around.

But it is his work off the pitch that is also attracting attention, notably the foundation he has set up in his home country.

Last year, when extending Munetsi’s contract for one more year, until June 2027, Reims decided to pay 100 euros per kilometre travelled by the player in all competitions, as long as he is at the club, to the foundation he created in 2019.

This was an original initiative, personally applauded by Fifa President Gianni Infantino.

And, as Munetsi runs a lot, his work rate has been reaping a tidy bonus. In the 2022/23 Ligue 1 season, he twice ran 13.7 km in separate league matches and achieved two of the four best performances in terms of distance covered in the season.

Munetsi has also been outspoken about the two-year ban suffered by Zimbabwe because of political interference in the running of their football association, and has since been incorporated onto the committee of FIFPro, the international players union.

“I no longer have the words to describe him,” said his former coach Will Still. “He’s an incredible human being. He understands everything and he manages to bring others out of their bubble”

Last season he was out for some of the first part of the season with an ankle injury but roared back to start 25 of the club’s 34 matches as Reims finished in ninth place.

Soon to turn 28, the Bulawayo-born Munetsi also got married and became a father, adding stability to his life.