Innocent Kurira, Sports Reporter
FOR the love of the game, a group of boys brave long journeys to make it on time for a football training session.
Some as young as 15 years old walk 20 kilometres every day to school and arrive home late but satisfied to have fulfilled a training session.
Their love for the world’s most beautiful game is unmatched.
The dedication has paid well and their play has also charmed celebrated legends who include Madinda Ndlovu and Zenzo Moyo.
This is the story of Binga Football Academy, who, with no one giving them any chance, travelled to Bulawayo and outplayed seven teams to be crowned the Fortune Fokoza Ncube Foundation Under-15 invitational tournament winners.
For a team that had almost all its players playing barefooted and competing against better resourced teams, theirs was a fairy tale. For the majority of the players, this was their first time in Bulawayo.
Founder and team coach Pride Ngwenya says the victory was the proudest moment of his coaching career.
“We came here to learn. The fact that we have not only managed to compete but gone on to win is unbelievable. Binga is under-resourced in sporting facilities. The place is far. Even academies in nearby areas such as Hwange struggle to commit to come and play with us. We are hopeful this is the breakthrough we need for the world to know and assist us reach our goals.
“We walk 10 to 20 kilometres to play other teams and get a friendly match. We have nothing as it is. We have registered 120 kids, but you will find that we have two balls at training. At times we are forced to make do with plastic balls so that we complete drills,” said Ngwenya. The Fortune Fokoza Ncube tournament was making a return this year following a two year hiatus owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. Yesteryear greats including Madinda Ndlovu, Gift Lunga Senior and Zenzo Moyo attended the tournament.
Eight teams took part in the competition, Chicken Inn, Entumbane Stars, Asante Sana, Real Stars, Super Nets, Thorngrove, Binga Soccer Academy and Fusini.
Binga Soccer Academy were 1-0 victorious over Real Stars in the quarterfinals and went on to beat Asante Sana by a similar score-line in the semi-final for a place in the final. In the final they beat hosts Entumbane Stars one nil.
For their efforts, Binga received a trophy, medals and balls. The losing finalists got medals, balls and t-shirts. All participating teams also received balls.
The player of the tournament went to Pauletta Nguzuzyaleza Mwembe from Binga Academy while his coach Pride Ngwenya was named coach of the tournament. Player Muleya was the top goal scorer with two goals also .
Ngwenya says Binga is full of raw talent that needs exposure.
“There is plenty of talent here that remains untapped. The idea is to have this academy as a community project that benefits our youngsters. With proper funding, we desire to go to all centres in Binga identifying talent. There is a lot to achieve in Binga.
“These boys have to be taught football rules and regulations and all the other basics. Most people in Binga want to start playing football when they are in their 20s, which does not work. Our idea therefore is to catch them young instead and teach them the basics at a tender age. Nurture the boys so that they can compete with the rest of the country,” said Ngwenya.
He said they were tasked with registering the academy with Zifa.
Player Muleya who finished as the top scorer said: “it was a great opportunity and l was really excited to play in this competition. Hopefully someday we will get sponsorship and we will be able to train with proper equipment and play at the highest level while placing our community on the map.”
Madinda Ndlovu was impressed with the performance of the academy.
“I think it’s a positive thing to have a team from Binga. I think you saw the talent that they have. Therefore l feel what this foundation is doing is good. It’s just these days there are no jobs out there so when these kids finish school they want to go outside the country and look for greener pastures. But this will keep the kids out of the street and things like drugs and alcohol abuse,” said Ndlovu who also hails from Binga together with his brothers, Adam and Peter.
Current players in the Premier Soccer League who are from Binga are Ben Musaka who is at Harare City and Newman Sianchali who plays for ZPC Kariba.
Zenzo Moyo also spoke glowingly of the academy.
“It is quite impressive to see these boys play like they did. It shows that there is a lot of talent out there which should be utilised. These boys need the support and l am certain we can have quality players who can go on to represent the country from that area,” said Moyo.
The motive for the tournament is to help the community fight against drug abuse as well as help with talent identification in the city.
The founder and sponsor of the tourney, Ncube, played for several clubs including Hwange, Bulawayo Chiefs, Bantu Rovers, Black Mambas as well as Motor Action. — @innocentskizoe