IN the Spanish city of Barcelona, the Camp Nou is considered a place of worship because of FC Barcelona’s religious following.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
A rendition of FC Barcelona’s official anthem El Cant del Barca (Barca Chant) embodies the culture, identity and spirit of Catalonia in a spectacular atmosphere inside Europe’s largest stadium.
The reverberation, especially during the famed El Clásico clash, shakes Barcelona-based former Zimbabwe youth international Yasser Chapfika who is in this Catalan city on a mission to try and break into the Spanish La Liga.
Turning out for lower league side Barcelonetta, Chapfika is one of the country’s finest football talents churned out by Sprouting Soccer Academy, a Harare football school that has immensely fed players to all national team levels.
Elsewhere in a Scandinavian country by the Baltic Sea, in the Swedenish city of Kalmar in Småland Province, another Sprouting protégé Archiford Gutu has already established himself at Kalmar FF in the top-flight league, the Allsvenskan.
Far north of Africa in the Carthage land of Tunisia in the coastal city of Bizerte, other Sprouting graduates Morris Kadzola and Devon Chafa are also in search of football glory with Zimbabwean giants Dynamos against CA Bizertin in the African Champions League.
DeMbare also boast of striker Allan Tavarwisa, another product of the academy.
The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has many products of the academy which cements its position as a pool of football talent in Zimbabwe.
As the name “Sprouting” suggests, the academy has developed Hwange’s Eric Chipeta, Motor Action and former youth international goalkeeper Francis Nicho and South African-bound former Shooting Stars and Kiglon midfielder Gift Kwaramba.
Also passing through the doors of the academy are Harare City’s Talent Chawapiwa and Monomotapa’s new signing Edwin Madananga.
The trio of relegated Blue Rangers Jealous Wilson, Philip Nelson and Mario Mabacho received football schooling at Sprouting while other players were loaned out to Division One clubs.
What started as a social soccer club in 2005 has transformed into an institution that discovers raw talent and exposes it to highly-competitive football.
Run by Calvin Nyazema, with a clubhouse in Mandara, the academy had Boniface Kabwe and James Mukangairwa as founding coaches.
“Some of the kids used to come to our boozers matches and one day, the late Dynamos player Masimba Mbuwa approached me and suggested that we start an academy with these boys. We saw it fit to channel the money we would spend on beer and braaing to establish the academy,” said Nyazema.
“We started training at George Stark High School in Mbare in 2006 and registered in Division Four before we rose up to Division Two, where we have been competing since 2008. We have PSL ambitions but we lose players to Premiership and Division One teams every pre-season as well as during the mid-season transfer window.”
Not only does Sprouting produce footballers but academics as well, with Blessmore Museba now a practicing lawyer after graduating from the University of Zimbabwe where he was enrolled by the academy.
Museba attained 17 A’ Level points and was Nkululeko Dhlamini’s assistant goalkeeper at the now defunct PSL outfit Buymore.
“We also put more emphasis on the academic side as well. It is all about giving life opportunities to these boys,” said Nyazema.
With two players in Europe so far, Sprouting is currently coached by Alexio Figion and Moses Zhuwawo, while Masimba Mutame is the chief scout.
Barcelona-based Chapfika, who has turned out for all junior national teams, is patiently waiting for his break into La Liga and has undergone trials at Segunda Division (a tier below La Liga) side Almeria.
An integral part of the Warriors, Gutu lost both parents at a very young age and reckons Nyazema as a father figure. The Warriors midfielder is currently at Kalmar but is still hoping to join a more lucrative European league.
With some boys enrolled at Cranborne High School, Sprouting has a yearly budget of more than US$300 000, similar to that of some PSL clubs.
“Another challenge has been backstabbing from some unscrupulous agents who come behind our backs trying to snatch some players from us,” Nyazema said.
With clubs crying foul over the 15% demanded by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) from each player transfer to a foreign club, Sprouting has not escaped this predicament.
“We develop players from a very tender age. We pay their schools fees with some up to tertiary level. You will realise that at the end of the day, a lot of money is pumped on one player without any help from Zifa. We do not understand why the association demands this money after all the strenuous investment on these boys,” said Nyazema.
Sprouting is in negotiation with a Sweden-based football management company for a possible partnership deal.