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Bunjira scores for youth

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One of Chitungwizas most illustrious sons, former Zimbabwe international soccer player Alois Albun Bunjira retired from top-flight football in 2011.

He had the opportunity to plough back into the community that made him a star through establishing the Album Soccer Academy in February this year.

Its aim is to groom talented underprivileged boys and girls in the 14 to 18-year age group.
His international career kicked off at the tender age of 17 when he was called to play for Zimbabwes senior team, The dream Team under the mentorship of Reinhard Fabisch.

Bunjiras 16-year international career saw him competing with the best in US, Slovakia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

As I was growing up, I got expert training and grooming from people like Never Gombera and Wislow Grabowski.

In the past decade when I was playing in South Africa, I realised that the quality of Zimbabwean players was deteriorating because there was lack of serious development of the game at junior level in our communities, said Bunjira in an interview recently.

The five-month-old academy has a national outlook and in the future, satellite academies will be set up at centres across the country.

Its impact on the development of local junior football and in the communities is already starting to be felt.

Since its establishment, Albun Soccer Acadeny has facilitated three boys to start training with Caps United Football Club.

Bunjira said that he was happy with the boys progress as they were ready for Premier league competition and chances were high that the club would sign on the selected boys.

The academy has also made it possible for 11 boys whose parents previously could not afford school fees, to secure scholarships to study at Chibi High School in Masvingo.

Passionate about his vision, Bunjira said: My vision is to start developing kids early so that they can reach sporting maturity earlier. We aim to produce 21-year-olds that are fully equipped to compete at international level.

This is important because it gives them the opportunity to have a longer soccer life span modelled on the career paths of the likes of todays top international players like Lionel Messi.
With this in mind, he made a business plan for the project in 2011 and approached various local companies for assistance.

However, the timing was unfortunate as the country was still in the grips of economic challenges that rendered corporate support an uphill task.

The former Caps United, Blackpool, Sundowns, Free State Stars and Wits University striker was not discouraged by the prevailing business environment. Using his personal funds, he established the academy at Zengeza 1 High School, in Chitungwiza, his hometown.

The Albun Soccer Academy currently trains 76 youths, 16 of whom are girls, drawn from the Chitungwiza community and as far as Harares suburbs of Mabvuku, Tafara and Kuwadzana.

Bunjira currently foots all the bills related to the training of the youths from his own private funds.
These include balls and equipment, fees for the field as well as bus fare, food and refreshments for the youths and two volunteer coaches.

He said: In order to give back to the community, our mission is to take the underprivileged kids from the streets, give then hope and a chance to dream big.

Our focus is to equip them with the technical skills they need on the pitch and teach them life skills. We also create opportunities, provide mentorship and encourage them to continue with their education, as this will give them more career options in the future.

We aim to produce a well grounded individual with strong values steeped in the national ethos.

Training includes inspirational sessions with real life case studies of former footballers like Tauya The Flying Doctor Murewha, a talented player of note at his peak who went on to pursue studies and a career in medicine.

In order for the academy to help talented youngsters to reach their full potential, more funding is needed for securing training regalia and equipment. Other project priorities are allowances for coaches and support staff, food, refreshments, medical care and a team bus for transporting the kids, said Bunjira.

Other stakeholders have come in to support Bunjiras community development initiative with donations.

Well-wishers from United Kingdom and South Africa who prefer to remain anonymous have contributed school fees for one year to two of the academys trainees. Another individual from the UK has also donated 12 pairs of soccer boots and sheen pads.

In addition Bunjiras wife has so far supported her husbands initiative with a contribution of 24 pairs of socks while his Australia-based friend Kudzai Nyamande recently shipped 20 pairs of boots for the trainees.

Testimonies indicate that parents have seen behaviour change in Bunjiras charges. Community members are grateful for the initiative, as it has opened up options for underprivileged youths to pursue a sporting career and go back to school.

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