DEFENDER Jordan Zemura became the first Zimbabwean to play in Italy’s Serie A after he made a second half substitute appearance for Udinese in the season-opener against giants Juventus on Sunday night.
The 23-year-old England-born left-back was introduced as a second half substitute in Udinese’s 0-3 home defeat, at their 25 000-seater Dacia Arena, to the former Italian champions.
Zemura, who last week featured in the Italian Cup match against Serie B side US Catanzaro and provided an assist in the 4-1 win, is venturing into new frontiers of Europe’s top five leagues.
Although Zimbabwe has had players in the English Premiership, the French Ligue 1, the Germany Bundesliga and most recently the Spanish La Liga, no Warriors player had competed in the Serie A before.
Zemura had experience at the top level with the English Premiership last season following his phenomenal rise at AFC Bournemouth.
But his Italian experience started on a bitter note as he watched his team slump to a 0-3 deficit by the time the game reached the half time break.
This forced the coach Andrea Sottil to make changes at the break with Zemura replacing Gambian Hassane Kamara while Lazar Samardzic replaced Oier Zarraga in a double substitution.
With Zemura part of the team, Udinese kept Juventus at bay in the second half although they failed to find the target to reduce the damage.
Popular football website, Soccerway gave Zemura a rating of 6.4 out of 10 for his 45-minute show, which was a second highest for Udinese’s five second half substitutes while another website, Footi Italia gave Zemura a rating of 5.5 out of 10.
“I didn’t like the first half of the first half, it makes me angry not to see the things we know how to do,” said Udinese coach Sottil.
“To win you have to score goals. We did the performance, but it’s difficult if you concede a goal after two minutes, then a penalty against and also a goal in the second half.
“In the second half we ran, we pressed, I don’t understand why we didn’t do it right away. You don’t have to do it at 3-0,” he added.
“We were not able to show that we have personality right away. The arrival of so many quality guys leads you to have to work a lot.
“Serie A is tough and someone has yet to find that rhythm that the championship requires. It’s not easy to compete here.”
Zemura moved to Italy on a four-year deal after failing to agree with English Premiership side Bournemouth where he played 19 games in the Premier League and 35 in the Championship between 2021 and this year.
Zemura said he was relishing the opportunity to compete at the highest level and against star players in Serie A following his move to Italian topflight.
The 23-year-old England-born Warriors player joined Udinese on a free transfer late last season after his contract with English Premier League club AFC Bournemouth had expired.
He told Udinese’s official website that the move was an opportunity for him to get out of his comfort zone in England.
“Joining this fantastic club means a lot: playing against players in a difficult league, getting out of my comfort zone, in England, where I have lived all my life, to move to Italy, and obviously being able to learn the language and culture of Udine has been a great experience.
“When I arrived in Udine I brought my mother, she was impressed with the stadium and the importance of the club. They welcomed us as if we were already part of the family; they made us feel at ease,” he said recently.
Zemura, who played for the Warriors at the belated 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals hosted by Cameroon in early 2022, is set to become a key figure of the Zimbabwe team ahead of the 2026 World Cup qualifiers to begin in November.
Warriors teammate Marshall Munetsi was on target in the French Ligue 1 at the weekend to lead Stade de Reims to a comfortable 2-0 victory over Clermont Foot in their second match of the season.
The 27-year-old headed home the opening goal after 17 minutes as Reims recovered from the opening day 2-1 defeat to Marseille.