Grassroots football development in Dete Nelson Ndeka

Nkosilathi Sibanda, [email protected]

WHEN Nelson Ndeka arrived in Dete in 2015, little did he know that will be the start of a new life.

But the job transfer has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for soccer as a new generation of heroes is being nurtured.

Ndeka is an accountant with one of the tourism industry players in Dete.

Being a staunch football follower, Ndeka found himself spending time watching local community teams play friendlies at weekends. That became his pastime in a usually quiet area.

Dete is in Matabeleland North and is adjacent to the Hwange National Park and so many wildlife conservancies. Most of the economic activity revolves around wildlife conservation. It was once a railway station servicing Kamativi and Gwayi River Mines.

Football teams are largely made up of rangers and villagers. Weekends are the only time the community gets to see some action. Schools in the area play football from May to July. Without sport, the youths flock to the shopping centre and are exposed to a lot that spoils their future.

That somehow got Ndeka thinking. He envisioned the idea of establishing a football academy to groom players of school going age, in a bid to revive the sport.

He laid his plans on paper and had to share with his friend and schoolmate at Regina Mundi Secondary School, Onwell Gumpo.Both love the game. Ponel Youth Soccer Academy was born.

The Hwange born and bred Ndeka gives an account of the first days in conceptualising the idea to fruition.

“I arrived to work in Dete from Hwange in November 2015. It was between 2016 and the larger part of 2019 that l monitored, observed and analysed how football was being developed and administered. Upon my findings, I realised the dire need to establish a sound football school.

“Dete and the villages in its proximity have so much talent but social vices hinder the youngsters progress. I shared the idea with my fellow co-founder, then we saw the need to curb such social ills and influence community development through football, and more specifically by establishing an academy for boys and girls of school going age. That led to the birth of Ponel Youth Soccer Awcademy. With the partnership from stakeholders like you all, soccer and the community at large will conquer. Ponel Youth Soccer Academy is a school of youthful soccer stars. It was founded by two soccer mad giants, Onele Gumpo and I,” said Ndeka.

Ndeka is a seasoned football administrator in Matabeleland North, of which his passion for football development in the province was driven by his experience.

He said so far more than 200 players, from the ages of 10-15 have passed through their school.

“We have worked closely with parents and schools in the academy. The relationship has made it easy for the community to see the bigger picture. Now they accept that football can be key in keeping children off the streets. Some parents actually did not know that their children have talent in football.

“Our immediate goal with grassroots and youth football is to connect with and fully develop every individual player that we work with. Our concern is the improvement of each individual player. We aim at helping individual athletes both on and off the field to be the best players and better people that they can be. Basically, we are helping young players become better people in the society,” he said.

When Ponel Youth Soccer Academy started, it was at the height of Covid-19 and they had to wait a while until the lockdown restrictions were removed.

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