WHAT started as a pastime social league football club in the high density suburb of Kuwadzana a year ago, has within a short period of time blossomed to match some of the biggest football academies in the country.
Report by Brian Nkiwane
September 13 2012 saw the birth of a new football academy, Friendly Football Academy.
The brains behind this noble project is Richard Solobala, a talented player during his days who never had a chance to make a breakthrough into the topflight league.
Solobala roped in junior football coach Partridge Muskwe who by his own standards has the much needed experience and exposure. Muskwe has a rich football history which dates back to the Super League era where he played for CAPS United and Rufaro Rovers before joining the great trek to South Africa, where he played for Jomo Cosmos and later Dangerous Duckies. Sydney Matanhike comes in as the academy administrator.
The three joined hands to turn around the fortunes of the social league club into a football academy which has an enrolment close to 80 players to date.
Speaking to this publication a week after their return from a fruitful trial trip in Spain where they had gone with five players, Solobala said junior players have been flocking to their academy since it opened doors in September last year.
“We started as a social league club but we later sat down and agreed that dealing with old players was not going to help us in any way. We then decided to turn into an academy. We have started identifying talent and our aim is to expose these players to our local club coaches, national team coaches as well as to other countries out there,” Solobala said.
Since then, the club restructured with Muskwe enrolling junior players from the age of 10 to 18.
“The academy has five age group teams that is the Under-10, 12, 14, 16 and 18. We have made it a point that all these age groups’ teams have at least 20 players per category. This has helped us very much because we managed to register all our teams with the Northern Region Junior Football League where we are playing games week in week out,” he added.
Muskwe acknowledged that there were better academies in the country that include BN Academy and the Aces Youth Academy which have produced notable players such as Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, but said their academy also had a chance of making a name.
“Nothing is impossible. Everything needs patience. You can ask those people that worked with Musona and Khama when they were still young and they will tell you that none of them ever dreamt that they would be big names in the football world. So what we need to do is identify talent and expose it to better clubs locally and abroad,” Muskwe said.
Muskwe salutes football stakeholders
The academy has moved a step further as they have put in place a system of availing trial stints for their players with different football academies and universities abroad.
“We have Simon Solobala who has been a revelation in the academy, the country and abroad as he was selected captain of the AC Milan Elite team. He will be going back in August and we hope he is going to secure a scholarship programme this time around. As I speak, we have managed to secure a scholarship for one junior player Tendai Jirira who is already at a school at North West Ohio,” Solobala said.
He added, “We also have five more players who will be going to Spain in the near future, with three of them going to club academies, while two of them will be going for scholarships at the same university”
Muskwe was full of praise for local football stakeholders and parents who have been supporting their project.
“Some of the local football stakeholders understand our plight and we are using the Milton Park Bowling Club ground for training for free. If I don’t mention the parents I will have done a wrong thing altogether. The players’ parents have been supportive to the extent of coming to watch us training,” he said.
Solobala said they were not far from releasing gems into the local league, as well as the world over.
“We are not going to rest. We want to make the job easier for all.”