FORMER national soccer team player Alois Bunjira founded the Albun Soccer Academy in 2010 with the aim of assisting talented children achieve their dreams. The 37-year-old also noticed after coming back from South Africa where he had lived for 12 years, that nothing much was happening in terms of development soccer in Chitungwiza, where he grew up and still lived. He wanted, therefore, to change the situation. The name of the academy is derived from the first two letters of his first name and the first three letters from his surname.
Report by Melody Gambe Own Correspondent
Bunjira grew up in Chitungwiza and attended Zengeza 1 High School before he transferred to Prince Edward High School. It was because of the attachment to Chitungwiza that he believed that this was where he had to begin.
Bunjira does not recall even a single moment when he was not playing soccer except when he was in class at school. He has played soccer all his life. He started playing in the Premier Soccer League while still in high school.
Bunjira reached the peak of his career during the 1990s when he became very popular playing for the Zimbabwe national soccer squad, the Warriors. He learnt then how important it was to nurture children’s talents particularly in sports, as one could never foretell in which form the child’s success would come.
When Bunjira came back from South Africa after plying his trade there for more than a decade, he was disappointed to see that, except for watching it on television and playing occasional games, nothing serious was being done to promote soccer in Chitungwiza. It was then that he decided to embark on his project, the Albun Soccer Academy.
He knew that within the community there were children that probably had as much interest and talent in soccer as he had, even when he was still a child. He wanted to develop that talent and see it grow to the same level, or even better than one he plied his skills.
The academy is for both boys and girls aged between 11 and 19 years. Since it started the academy has grown tremendously.
There are 20 girls and more than 50 boys in the academy. The players are from Chitungwiza but eight are from outside Chitungwiza. Becoming a part of this academy has helped the children with regard to sport but also some have managed to obtain scholarships at different boarding schools in and around the country.
Twelve-year-old Tinotenda Rande plays for the Albun Soccer Academy. He started playing this year and enjoys the training. He lives, eats and drinks soccer and is determined that soccer will always be a part of him.
Brian Chiunda joined the soccer academy last year and enjoys playing soccer with the other boys. Chiunda and the other boys train three times a week. The training is not only about developing their skills but it is also keeping them physically fit.
Since he joined the academy Ronald Rwanyanya has learnt a lot regarding the sport. Rwanyanya would like to pursue a career in soccer and he looks forward to every training session.
Twenty-five players have managed to secure scholarships so far at different schools. Seven boys will be going to Deure High School in Gutu next year for Form One. Some of the boys will be going to Chivi Mission in Masvingo and Pamushana High School, also in Masvingo.
Four of the boys are going to premier league clubs and there is a good chance that they will be signed by Caps United next year.
One of the girls, Sharon Konje, was in the national under-20 squad.
When the academy started they held trials where they selected children who that displayed the best talent. They also went around the schools identifying children when they were conducting sports competitions. They have since stopped and now they welcome anyone who wants to join as long as they are between the ages of 11 and 19.
The players train every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and every day during the school holidays. Bunjira personally trains them together with Annifer Konje at the Zengeza 1 High School grounds.
Bunjira is now working towards making the academy a national institution.
He is passionate about taking it to the rural areas to help the under privileged children.
Funding is the biggest challenge for this project because Bunjira is funding everything by himself – from travelling expenses to the refreshments during games.