For Zemura, AFCON was a gamae changer BOUNDLESS JOY . . . Zimbabwe international defender Jordan Zemura (right) celebrates with AFC Bournemouth’s team-mate and man-of-the-match Jaidon Anthony after the latter fired home the Cherries third goal with 14 minutes from time to seal the points for the home side in their 3-1 win over Birmingham City in an English Championship match at Vitality Stadium on Wednesday night. This was the Cherries’ ninth successive victory in all competitions against the Blues

Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter

WARRIORS star Jordan Zemura was already a revelation for his English Championship football side AFC Bournemouth before playing in his maiden African Cup of Nations which ended last weekend in Cameroon.

But he reckons the biennial tournament transformed his indomitable spirit to a higher level after helping Bournemouth move to an automatic English Premier League qualification position following an impressive 3-1 win over Birmingham City at Vitality Stadium on Wednesday night.

Each time Zemura has started for the Scott Parker-coached charges, he has shown a great deal of both industry and artistry in a season the Cherries are angling to bounce back into the English top-flight.

Zemura has been absent from the club, which is understood to be working on a new bumper contract for the Zimbabwean, in January as he was representing the Warriors at the AFCON.

He showed how good he is as a player in Norman Mapeza’s team despite the Warriors’ disappointing early exit from the tournament.

Zemura told The Herald yesterday that he had been hugely transformed by his participation in the AFCON.

“The tournament (AFCON) was incredible and it did transform me in many aspects,” said Zemura.

“It was quite an eye-opener, a massive learning curve.

“Of course, as a team we failed to progress to the round of 16 but it was a really exciting experience.

“Playing against some top players helped lift my confidence levels. For more reasons than one, I know that competition enhanced my competitiveness physically and mentally.

“You know playing for your national team in a prime event is the ultimate confidence-booster one can yearn for.”

And on Wednesday evening, Zemura played with the confidence of a veteran as he manufactured Bournemouth’s first goal.

He was in the thick of things in his left flank role defending with perfect poise and making spot-on forward forays.

Zemura was given a 70 percent rating by Dorset Live.

“To quickly work out how well Bournemouth are playing, the space and intensity of Jordan Zemura’s runs are a pretty good indicator. It didn’t take long to work it out. He drove forward and timed his overlaps with his partner in crime, Jaidon Anthony ,well and seemed to have a real intent on moving the ball quickly in possession,” noted Dorset Live.

“This was Zemura back to his sharp, marauding best — imperative for Bournemouth to retain this type of left back for as long as they can.”

It is interesting to note that the general sentiment is pushing for the Zimbabwean to be retained at the Vitality Stadium.

Zemura was for over two years confined to the reserve team, where he was doing perfectly well but his struggles to break into the senior team were well-known.

However, he couldn’t spurn an opportunity presented to him after Jack Stacey, who used to be the first-choice left-back, got injured ahead of their 2021-2022 season-opener against West Bromwich Albion.

Zemura played with determination and never put a foot wrong as the teams shared the spoils and he has never looked back since then.

Parker has actually worked out a formula to play both Stacey and Zemura at the same time to good effect.

The Zimbabwean is on a contract that earns him about 380 euros per week and that is set to be vastly improved given his form when the current deal runs out in June.

Contract talks were halted in December to enable the 22-year-old space to concentrate on his game.

But with reported interest from some top-tier teams, including Newcastle, Crystal Palace and West Ham United, Bournemouth will be more than keen to elbow out competition for their prized asset.

Bournemouth are second on the log behind Fullham — the two teams separated by six points — and Parker’s team should continue to squeeze positive results to get an automatic qualification slot to the English top-flight.

“Our aim at the end of the day is to get promoted into the English Premier League. That will be a dream come true,” said Zemura.

“We will have to continue pushing and see what happens.

“But as a club, we are enjoying every moment, fighting for each other every day and we believe we are going to do it. We all know the minor details matter.”

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