Revive junior football

(Last Updated On: June 2, 2022)

#BhoraLethu with Alois Bunjira

Zimbabwe football standards — technical and administrative — didn’t die because of a lack of funding only.

If it was about funding, we could simply have adjusted to live within our means, but maintaining the correct football structures.

Our football died mainly because of the dearth of structures, when a crop of “new” football leaders took over.

They destroyed the proper football structures prevailing at the time.

Unfortunately, nekusaziva, they thought they were doing a good thing. Some even bragging, thinking they were being cool and trendy.

Honestly speaking, during the time when we were playing junior football, we were never funded but grew up in proper structures.

I played in Zengeza Area Zone up to Under 14. No one was paid a cent, including the coaches. We walked to the training ground, which was also the match venue for all matches

I played soccer in Primary School where we played all the other 10 primary schools in our Zengeza Zone on a home and away basis.

The winner of Zengeza zone would  then play against the winner of the Seke zone. The Chitungwiza Champion was then crowned. Do you know what the prize money was? $0.00

All the winner would get was just a floating trophy that would be displayed at school assembly and kept in the headmaster’s office.

Now, imagine a primary school kid playing more than 20 matches a year at school and training for those matches?

Isn’t that intensive development starting at a young age in primary school?

Those matches were usually played on Wednesdays and Fridays. That same primary school kid would also play for his area zone team on weekends, all year round.

They didn’t get paid. They played in their hood. They ate at home. No transport costs.

At the primary school ,for a match played on a Wednesday, the players were released to go home at 12 noon to eat, and come back to school at 1pm.We would walk to the away venue with the whole school as fans, play the matches and go back home. Zero dollars spent.

Fast forward to 2018

The primary school teams have a tournament coming up only in the second term.

A week before the tournament ,the team is assembled. The competing schools gather at one venue. They are divided into  four groups of three.

The winner then goes to the provincial finals.

How has the economy affected such an important structure which functioned well at $0 budget in the past?

Secondary schools soccer

In my hood we had six secondary schools. The league started in the second term.

Home and away. Again, on $0 budget. We walked everywhere. At times, if lucky, the school would provide Mazoe and bread for an away match.

At least 10 matches a year were played in the league, plus friendly matches. The winner played the winner from Seke. The two finalists then would go to the provincial finals at Churchill. The winner at Churchill would go to the national finals.

The same kid is also a member of his Area Zone junior team where they train everyday and play on weekends.

Fast forward to 2022

They now play one tournament and that’s it for the year.

Provincial junior leagues are now dead. Back then, if a high school going player was not in an area zone league  team, he would be in teams that were competing in the provincial junior league.

In my time we had teams like Marisa, Chitungwiza Youth Stars, Red Arrows from Chitungwiza, in the Harare Junior league.

We also had teams like Kambuzuma Youth stars, Rugare, Chizhanje and many others in the same junior league. These teams never had corporate sponsors. They had passionate owners from the community who would put together transport money for an away match, twice a month. In today’s money that is like hiring a lorry from Zengeza to Kambuzuma for a day for $30.

So that is $60 a month to run a junior team with three age groups. Add $40 for bread and Mazoe, and you have a budget of $100 to run a junior team with three  age groups. Premier league teams like Dynamos, CAPS United ,Darryn T, Aces and others also played in this league.

Dynamos Juniors trained in Mbare. $0 budget for training. Am not sure how much Bla Dhidhidhi and David George were paid to coach those boys.

They played their home matches at Rufaro Stadium whenever the first team was playing there.

Sometimes they would even lure the home junior team to come to play their home game at Rufaro Stadium.  So basically for transport it was the same $60 a month. CAPS United trained at Raylton once a week on Saturdays and played matches on Sundays.

Their players were predominantly from Glen Norah and Glen View. A bus was dispatched to fetch the boys from there and take them back after training.

The rest found their own way to Raylton. They played matches there.

For away matches ,they used their own bus. How much do you think was the budget for that?

Black Rhinos were in the league. They trained at the free One Commando and played home matches there.

For away matches an army bus or lorry was availed. Players found their own way to One commando for training and matches…$0 payment.

How much was the budget?

Then along came the new crop of headmasters, teachers and administrators ,who thought football in schools is a waste of time and the number of matches should be cut down.

Then along came the new crop of administrators and owners, with briefcases, and changed the complexion of Zimbabwean football, doing away with junior and development structures and we started the journey downhill.

Their logic has been “we will buy players when we need them”.

One administrator even said “zvemajuniors hazvina basa izvo and it takes time. Vafanha vacho vanozotamba tafa”.

That Zimbabwe Junior league was being run by passionate people who were not even paid…They had their own small office at ZIFA house. All volunteers. And what did ZIFA do?

ZIFA drove them away and even removed ZIFA Junior football from their assembly.

They opted for Beach football to replace them. Yes, beach football in Zimbabwe. These same things that were happening in Harare were also happening in Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru and many other cities.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave Dynamos players like Vitalis Takawira, Lloyd Mutasa, Memory Mucherahowa, Chamu Musanhu, Ernest Masango, Hope Chihota, Alois Godzi, Simon Chuma and others was abandoned and replaced with a costly system of bringing established players  from other teams.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave CAPS United players like George Nechironga, Joe Mugabe, Cheche Billiat, Blessing Makunike, Tostao Kwashi, Morgan Nkhatazo, Englebert Kahuni and many others was abandoned and replaced with a costly system of buying players.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave Black Rhinos players like Innocent Chikoya, Farai Kahembe, Nesbert Saruchera, Muchine Maswaya, Manilo Mutimba, David Ndunduma, Ian Gorowa, Misheck Mapika, among others was abandoned.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave Highlanders players like Willard Khumalo, Mercedes Sibanda, Gift Lunga, Peter Ndlovu, Adam Ndlovu, Madinda Ndlovu,Mpumelelo Dzowa, Lovemore Ncube, Benja Nkonjera, Thulani Ncube, Thabani Moyo, Methembe Ndlovu  was also abandoned.

At least Bosso are going back to their roots.The low budget conveyor belt that gave Zimbabwe Saints players like Mzo Mugadza,Ronald Sibanda,Mathamba Sibanda,Leonard Chunda,Lloyd Jowa, Chris Kawema,Robson Muchichwa was abandoned and replaced with a costly system of buying players and they got relegated.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave Darryn T players like Stewart Murisa, Norman Mapeza, Lloyd Chitembwe, Eddie Dinha, Alois Bunjira, Gift Muzadzi, Shingi Kawondera, Elliot Matsika, Musa Jenitala was abandoned when the team was banned and relegated, bringing a system of grouping players together for D2.It was not sustainable and died a slow death.

The low budget conveyor belt that gave Mutare United/Tanganda players like Nelson Bandura, Steven Matsaira, Johnson Mbaradza, Kenny Suware, Emmanuel Maluwa, Patrick Chapoterera, Dananai Chinowawa, Ian Matondo was abandoned and replaced with a costly system of buying players and bringing under developed players from all over the country. They got relegated and are now defunct.

Now we have under developed Mbare and Mabvuku players playing for Mutare City.

We used to have our National Under 20 team full of players already household names in the Premiership.

But today our National Under 20 team coach goes to look for players at Pamushana, Chemhanza, Mufakose 2 high  schools.

No ZIFA Junior football. No ZIFA Junior football office. No Junior football in the ZIFA Assembly. The national junior teams are no longer competing.

Do you really believe all these things are due to economy, wholly? I do agree that economy plays a role ,but all that could be done was to adjust and maintain the structures ,in instances where a budget was needed.  All it took was passion ,dedication the knowledge of the importance of  junior and development football.

The total disregard is shocking.

Until we go back to the basic structures of football, and incorporate new methods of football development, we will not have the quality football that we so much desire. Schools need to play a lot of football, coached by qualified coaches. Junior football needs to be revived. It doesn’t cost the amounts people lie about.

PSL teams should be forced to have their own junior structures.

They lie about the costs. It is not expensive at all. The owners of these clubs spend more at one dinner date than the amount needed to run junior teams in a month.

We also need to start taking football as a business and not as a hobby.



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