Former Dynamos star Stanley “Samora” Chirambadare is one of the few footballers in Zimbabwe who have given back to the community after hanging their boots.
“It’s all about national pride,” said the former left wingback in an interview with NewsDay last week.
Chirambadare, who is the founding chairperson of Mufakose Junior League, said the nation has totally ignored the development of junior football.
“Those who are into soccer today are in for the money and not for development. That is why you see that they shun junior football development,” he said.
He cited the number of agents vis-à-vis those involved in junior sports development.
“We have more football agents than developmental projects and this shows the money-making mentality among the majority of us.”
It is this observation, strengthened by his passion for developing young people, that made him embark on his development project in 2009 after he had hung up his boots in 1991. He is also the founding president of Revival Juniors Football Club in Mufakose.
“It is our duty as a community to take care of the current parentless generation. Today’s kids hardly have time with their parents who are always busy trying to make a living in these hard times and as a community we need to chip in to fill in the gap.”
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The idea, Chirambadare said, was to teach children soccer and moral values at the same time.
“It is not about kicking the ball only,” said the former Dynamos son, “It is about teaching the youngsters values that lead one to be a survivor and a good citizen in life. For example, we teach the kids that one has to be a team player to succeed in football, one has to conform to what the team wants just like in society where one has to conform to both written and unwritten rules and regulations.”
While the project targets the youth, it also benefits adults who are taught administrative skills to run their clubs and the league. The programme also includes the development of referees and coaches. “Developing football at junior level is a long-term process. It is like planting a tree.
You have to nurture it before you can realise the benefits of your sweat. But people just want money today. It is hard to find sponsorship for junior development and Zifa’s attitude does not help matters. They do not have an office for junior football development.”
He said as a result, there was a lot of rot in football today because people involved in the game, the players and administrators, are not football-oriented, they are in it for the money.
“That is why you have the Asiagate scandal. The players have no ‘play to win’ mentality, together with the coaches and the administrators; they are in it for money so it is easy to corruptly manipulate them. They have no passion for the game because they were not properly moulded from a tender age.”
The lack of a clear junior policy, Chirambadare argued, also leads to age cheating.
“We do not have a database for juniors so age cheating becomes easy. That is why we have some players who use their brothers’ or cousins’ names. We also notice that there are players who supposedly do very well in the Under-20 or Under-23 teams, but they never make it into the senior teams because they would be playing in these junior teams at their peak with their true ages being around 26-28 years. After two seasons they fade away because they would be old. You just find somebody playing for the Under-17 national team from nowhere.”
“Samora” also blasted the “elite” mentality that has crept into football where rich parents drive to training grounds and leave their children with coaches whom they would have bribed.
“That is why my project is in the ‘ghetto’. Who will drive the talented young ghetto player to training grounds in the city and who will bribe the coaches for them? The irony is that poverty and skill go together. Our idea is to transform lives. I look at a youngster like Khama Billiart and say ‘If we can produce 10 more like him then we would have transformed lives’. We started with Khama when he was a very tiny young boy. He moved away from us between 1999-2000 when we temporarily closed during that depression period. He then joined Aces Academy.
“He has transformed the lives of his parents and relatives, which is what we want the future to be like for the current crop of youngsters we have.”
Chirambadare said apart from financial hardships, they also faced facility problems for training and competition.
“There are no training facilities. We need a stadium in Mufakose. The old suburbs in Harare like Mbare and Highfield have stadiums and why not Mufakose? After all it’s also the home of Zimbabwean soccer having produced the likes of Joel Shambo, Stanley Ndunduma, Archieford Chimutanda (all late), Moses Chunga, Angirai Chapo and Ramson Zhuwawo among others.”