If you want to see a man with a big footballing heart, look no further than George Jojo.
REPORT BY RANGANAI DZOTIZEI
Away from his position as Biggie Zuze’s second-in-command at modest premiership side Monomotapa United, Jojo is secretly pursuing his desire to nurture young talent.
A trip to the football pitch at outside Churchill Boys High School provides a clear picture of the work in progress.
The humble and astute coach is the technical director at Eastlea Soccer Academy, a project he started two years ago with kids drawn from the Eastlea neighbourhood and Harare Children’s Home with ages ranging from four-15 years.
For a man who is running an academy from his own pocket, providing an avenue to many youngsters to fulfil their dreams is no mean feat.
“The numbers here can be around 60 to about 100. I realised that most kids have talent so I said to myself why not start an academy to groom these youngsters,” he said.
Football is his hobby and he uses his spare time away from the heat of the premiership to create a fine group of superstars for the future.
Surprisingly, the inspiration behind his passion is his 11-year-old son Ginola, named after former Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa and Newcastle United legend David Ginola.
“My son inspired me a lot. He has got some unique skills. It was when I identified his talent that I took the task to train him, thus driving me to start the academy.
“It was never smooth sailing to achieve this as lack of equipment and a training venue were major obstacles but thanks to authorities at Churchill, the academy is using the school’s football pitch at no charge.”
The situation has been helped further by the schools holiday as this is giving him ample time with budding footballers.
He said if Zimbabwe was to move forward in football, much attention must be channeled towards junior development.
“Normally the youngsters are neglected and more energy is put on the senior teams. Development starts at grassroots level.
“Kids should have a relationship with the ball and perfect skills on their own. Going forward, this is a positive step at achieving the results,” Jojo said.
The self-styled coach is said to have caught the eye of the new Warriors coach Klaus Dieter Pagels, who had seconded him to be part of his technical team, but noone knows what happened to the final list on which his name did not appear.
Hexagon donates to Academy
In a clear show of approval of his vision, sports event management company Hexagon Sports Management donated soccer balls to Eastlea Soccer Academy on Wednesday.
The academy got more than they had bargained for as they had a taste, for the first time, of the Katlego match ball to be used at the forthcoming Africa Cup of Nations finals in South Africa.
“Such partnerships are important for our football and I am thrilled by such a donation from Hexagon. We are grateful for their gesture,” Jojo said.
Jojo’s ultimate next move is to develop a proper structure in which kids will be nurtured.
“The next thing is to commercialise this project. There has to be a proper facility which would be well-equipped, more like a club house where kids will be groomed in a proper environment.”
With things starting to shape up for the academy, the future of Zimbabwean football looks brighter.