Benjani's last roll of the dice

By Steve VickersBBC News, Harare
Benjani Mwauruwari
Benjani Mwauruwari

AJ Auxerre, Portsmouth, Manchester City, Sunderland, Blackburn Rovers, and... SuperSport United.

It is an inauspicious end to a club career that saw Benjani Mwauruwari spend 10 years in Europe.

After five months of searching for a club, the former Zimbabwe captain finally signed for South Africa's SuperSport United this week.

But is it a fitting end to a career that saw him play in arguably the world's most glamorous league?

The Zimbabwean media mockingly refers to the South African Premier League as the "retirement zone" for players no longer good enough to make the grade in Europe.

Indeed, a few years ago, anyone leaving Europe to play in South Africa's top flight would have been seen as a failure.

Not anymore.

Granted, South Africa's domestic championship is less challenging than most of the leagues of Europe, yet offers good financial rewards.

And plenty of sunshine!

Benjani is just the latest in a growing list of stars who have decided to end their playings days in the so-called rainbow nation.

Another former Zimbabwe captain, Peter Ndlovu, called time on a 13-year spell in Europe to join Mamelodi Sundowns in 2004, at that time becoming South Africa's highest-paid player ever.

Hardly surprising, then, that Benjani opted to move to there rather than digging around for a contract with a second or third-tier club in England.

It also leaves him just a short flight away from his home in Zimbabwe, where he remains a hugely popular figure.

Benjani held a high-profile testimonial match in Harare in May which featured former South Africa captain Aaron Mokoena, who is now settled at another South African outfit Bidvest Wits after leaving Portsmouth.

Benni McCarthy, Hans Vonk and Shaun Bartlett are other high-profile players who joined South African clubs in the sunset of their careers.

McCarthy moved from West Ham United to Orlando Pirates last year, and his class told, as he helped Pirates win the league title, and scoring ten goals.

Can we expect something similar from Benjani at SuperSport United?

Well, coach Gavin Hunt says that he hopes the former Warriors marksman will be the solution to the club's goalscoring problems.

Benjani is no longer at his best, but neither is he completely over the hill.

He may prove to be a shrewd signing for his new employers.

This, after all, is Benjani's last roll of the dice.

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