Building community through soccer

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Siphambaniso Dube is a popular athlete in Bulawayo whose failure to make it in sport was due to his parents’ insistence on education.

His passion for the game made him form a football club and later a football academy, which has become a springboard for a number of footballers, coming from the sprawling high-density suburbs of Bulawayo.

Dube is the founder and director of Ajax Hotspurs Football Club, which has not only seen youths excel in their football careers, but has taken them out of the streets.

Dube was born in Bulawayo at Mpilo Hospital in 1975 and went to Zenka Primary School in Nkayi from 1983-89 and then to Cyrene Boys’ High where he completed his “O” Levels in 1993 and “A” Levels in 1995.

He graduated from the Bulawayo Polytechnic in 2000 with a Higher National Diploma in Marketing and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Management from the National University of Science and Technology.

He started his project when he was a lecturer in Management of Business at the Foundation College in Bulawayo under the name Foundation Football Club, in 2001, with the idea of bringing students at the college to mainstream school sports.

He acquired the Division Three Missing Link franchise in the same year and changed it to Ajax Hotspurs in 2005.

To date, more than 1 000 footballers, who have reached different destinies, have gone through Ajax, which holds a Zifa Division Two franchise. The club services the Zifa Bulawayo Province Junior League, Under-14, Under-16 and Under-18s.

Dube also has Under-6, U-8, U-10 and U-12s under Ajax Hotspurs School of Soccer Excellence that caters for interested football players from the Mpopoma suburb in particular and Bulawayo suburbs in general.

Ajax is joined free of charge by anyone and since inception, more than 1 000 footballers have gone through the club and the academy.

“The whole set-up has come out of my personal passion to see youngsters develop into future responsible adults, who are also going to develop their communities.

My family believed and was so much into academics. I was subsequently withdrawn from the national triple jump team for the 1995 All-Africa Games because I was writing my “A” Levels. I lost out on an opportunity for a scholarship to America because I had failed to heed the camp call,” Dube said.

Khumbulani Banda, who plays Premiership football with FC Platinum, joined Ajax at the age of 17 in 2007. He says Dube recognised his talent and roped him into his Division Two side after he was spurned by another club, Railstars, because of his physical stature.

“I joined Ajax from Railstars when I was 17. The Railstars coach said I was too small and I could not fit into his Division Two team. But I joined Ajax and played for their Division Two side and we beat Railstars and that same coach took me from Ajax to Railstars.

From there I joined Bantu Rovers in 2009. I played for Dynamos last year and now I am at FC Platinum. I am not married yet, but I assist at home and my football career is at its peak,” Banda said.

Another product of Ajax is Hillary Madzivanyika, who joined Botswana Division One side Orapa Bucks in 2004, (Motlakasi), which he led to promotion to the be-Mobile Premiership before he joined another top Botswana football side BMC for the 2011/2012 season.

“I would like to thank Ajax for a job well done on my career. They are the ones who took me to be where I am today. All the former players and current ones, I miss them all. Director (Dube), I am very grateful for what you are doing, not for me only, but for the team as well. Keep up the good work,” Madzivanyika wrote on social network, Facebook.

Chrispen Machisi (17) is another product of Ajax and has just written his “O” Levels at Mpopoma High School. He has attracted the attention of Ajax Cape Town in South Africa, where he went on attachment in their developmental school for three months in 2009 and 2010.

Machisi will be going back to Ajax Cape Town for further attachment next month.

Ajax Hotspurs has produced quite a number of players, who are playing for different clubs in Bulawayo and the country at large as well as abroad.

The Division Two Club has been runners-up for promotion to the Division One league in 2005, 2007 and 2008. In 2007 their Under-13s were the champions in the Bulawayo Junior League.

In 2008, the Under-15 team won the Youth Education through Sport Festival for the Norway Cup, which was cancelled due to a cholera outbreak.

Dube contributed immensely to the ward-based games where Mpopoma were the champions with Ajax providing 17 of the 20 players.

“All this is from my pocket. There is no funding from elsewhere. It’s just digging into my pockets,” Dube said.