After realising that most children spend most of their time watching television, playing computer games or doing drugs, which eventually leads to unwanted pregnancies among other things, junior football coach George Jojo embarked on a mission to give children football and life lessons at no cost.
By Own Correspondent
The journey, which was not so rosy at the beginning for the 46-year-old former Monomotapa assistant coach, started in 2010 when he founded Eastlea Soccer Academy, which currently boasts of more than 50 children drawn from the greater part of the capital’s catchment area.
The children meet every weekend at Churchill grounds for their training and lessons.
Eastlea Soccer Academy, which also accommodates the girl child, does not focus on football training only, but also addresses social issues for the betterment of their lives.
“The main objective of the academy is to engage teenagers from both sexes in productive training, where they are taught football basics, but in the process I get the opportunity to teach them social issues affecting children.
“These issues include drug abuse, early teenage pregnancies, child abuse and social responsibilities through voluntary community programmes.
“I encourage academic excellence for ‘The Total Person Concept’ for the future; a total person must have to choose from their careers, either sport or other conventional careers.
“My passion is to make sure children or teenagers use their spare time wisely, rather than spending the whole day playing games, watching movies or doing drugs, but rather engage them in sporting disciplines where they gain physical fitness and basic tips on life.
“Moreover, the academy is built on Christian values where respect, fear of God, spirit of Ubuntu, good general behaviour and fair play emphasised,” said Jojo.
He added that his academy would also help children who have soccer talents to pursue their dreams.
“Since we are already in soccer, I wll make sure that those with the talent get the necessary support. However, the academy accommodates every child who is interested in football.
“I discover, groom and nurture raw talent, which we then channel into local notable teams. My dream is to establish links with international academies, where we can expose our cadets to international forums,” he said.
Jojo has been funding the academy from his own pocket.
“I have been doing this for the love of the game. I am funding this project on my own.”
“The academy accommodates children between four and 19 years. I make sure I am available every Saturday morning for the children. They need me, and if I default it will be a shame indeed,” he said.
According to Jojo, the academy has produced two soccer players who are now playing for notable clubs in the country.
“So far, in the past three years, the academy has produced two players who are plying their trade in the local premiership.
“The first one is George Jojo [Jnr], my son who last year played for Quelaton before going to university, while the other one is Admire Matekenya who is now with the Monomotapa senior team.
“This is what I want, to give life through football to the talented ones by grooming them to world standards so that they become international players of repute,” he said.
How did Eastlea Academy start?
But how did Eastlea Academy start?
“I was inspired by my little son Maitaishe. In fact, after discovering his talent I started training him inside the house on the passage until we went outside onto the lawn.
“A few kids joined and they increased, so we looked for a bigger space. Kids from as far as Norton and Chitungwiza also started joining the party and that is how it all started,” he said.
The academy has so far invited football greats and educationists who came for developmental training. These include former Warriors coach Norman Mapeza, fitness trainer Gerald Maguranyanga, Achieford Gutu, Monomotapa coach Biggie Zuze and educationist Frank Kurebwa among many others.
Jojo’s soccer career started in the early 90s, when he played for Division One side Redseal Rovers in Njube, Bulawayo. In the late 90s he moved to Harare, where he played for Divison One sides Screentone Tigers and PTC Stars.
He was there when Monomotapa was formed from the ashes of Bindura United and Dimon FC. He however hung his boots due to a tibia fracture which needed eight screws. His coaching career started in 1999 as Monomotapa Junior coach. It is during this time that he discovered Talent Gwaze who is now in Europe, Tendai Samanja (CAPS United) and Tapiwa Ruzivo, among others. He later discovered Russell Madamombe from Glendale when he was just 12 years old before he nurtured him into the complete player he is today.