One of the few footballers in the Pacific Beach Atlantic University (PBAU) Sports Hall of Fame is a Zimbabwean.
yesteryear profile with MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
It is Miguel Lemming, a former Arcadia United and Young Warriors utility player who left the country at the turn of the millennium.
Despite his amazing talent and sheer strength, especially in defensive positions, education has always been a priority for Lemming and it didn’t come as a surprise when he left the then relegation-haunted Arcadia United for the United States to pursue a degree.
Lemming attained a Master’s degree in Business Administration from PBAU before pursuing a career in business.
His football talent was, however, not entirely lost as he remained one of the best soccer players to play for the American university, which competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II.
Lemming was selected into the Sunshine State Conference All-star team in his first year at university in 2001, making an immediate impact as an offensive star for PBAU, while he was also named the PBA Male Athlete Newcomer of the Year for the 2001-2002 season.
In 2010, he was inducted into the PBAU Hall of Fame for his exploits on the football field.
But coming back to Zimbabwe, in 2010 after discovering that Arcadia United — the only club he knew and loved — was now defunct and its stadium Danny Bismark in tatters, Lemming decided to start his own junior football project.
The project — Ten Toes Africa — hinges upon three main pillars which are mentorship, education and soccer.
“We want to use three pillars — mentorship, education and soccer — to reach communities and create transformational leaders who will rise up in their community and get an education. Get a degree and help us,” Lemming said in an exclusive interview with Standardsport.
Last weekend Ten Toes Africa held its fifth edition of the annual junior football tournament at the Harare International School (HIS).
“We have over a dozen young players who played university football in the US. All of them need to help the next generation. The vision came in 2010 when I came home and watched the World Cup in South Africa. I realised the need since Danny Bismark Stadium was obsolete and my childhood team Arcadia was also defunct,” he said.
Ten Toes Africa has held annual tournaments since 2013 and the inaugural event held at Rufaro Stadium brought former West Bromwich Albion youth coach Paul Gibbons into the country.
It was held with a focus on helping kids from Glen View, with Gladman Dimbiri and his Maningi FC as hosts.
The second tournament was hosted by Prince Edward, which was followed by an outreach programme at Glen View High School and Chiedza Child Care, while HIS hosted the other two tournaments.
There was no tournament in 2016 due to lack of funding while this year’s event attracted about 400 children.
“I want to see kids play in our tournaments as a platform to be seen and to interact with legends and players like Moses Chunga, Stanley Chirambadare and Alan Johnson, among others. I basically create awareness in the US for donors and sponsors to help in youth development in Zimbabwe and South Africa,” Lemming said.
Son to Vincent Chiwaya Lemming and grandson to Arcadia United founding father Peter Lemming, Miguel grew up watching players like George “TNT” Rollo, Charlie White, Carlos Max and others.
“I started playing football at the age of five, going with my dad to watch him play. He was playing for Arcadia All Stars [social soccer team] and also for George Shaya X1. I travelled all over Zimbabwe with them and had my first game for Arcadia All-Stars when I was 13 years old,” he said.
“I played for Arcadia United juniors and briefy stopped so that I would concentrate on school work. I also played for St George’s College’s first team between 1992 and 1996.”
Lemming had a brief stint at Rhodes University in South Africa before he came back home and played for Arcadia United from 1997 to 1999. It was during this period that he was selected to play for the Zimbabwe Under-23 side.
“I’ll never forget my first Premier League game. We played Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium and lost 1-0. That night Bronick MacKay [ex-teammate] was killed in a car accident. It was so sad; he was only 19,” the 38-year-old former player said.
Starting off as a midfielder, Lemming swapped places with Shepherd Muradzikwa moving into central defence where he mastered the sweeper’s role under coach Max.
With Arcadia struggling, Lemming, who mourns the death of Arcadia, revealed how he almost joined Dynamos when problems at his former side started.
“Arcadia is a shame. I left when Eric Rosen was trying some great things at the club. He couldn’t get support, so he moved to form Motor Action. If he had poured the money and vision into Arcadia, it could have competed with the biggest clubs in Africa,” he said.
“I was disappointed that he was not given support. I contemplated moving to Dynamos to join Jimmy Finch and Peter Fanwell, but I had my family history and wanted to stay at Arcadia. It’s a shame.”
Lemming also spoke passionately about his time playing for the Young Warriors and the talent that he rubbed shoulders with.
“Those were the best times for me. Tostao Kwashi was a magician with the ball and there were other immensely talented players like Blessing Makunike, Kelvin Mushangazhike, Richard Choruma, Richard March, Benjamin Mwaruwari and captain Thulani Ncube,” he said.
At the age of 23, Lemming left the country for the US where he continued his football career at PBAU while studying for a Bachelor of Science in International Business degree.
In 2011, he coached Rancocas Valley Football Club Under-17 side to a New Jersey State Cup triumph. However, he has since quit coaching to concentrate on his job.
His decision to quit full-time coaching was also motivated by the desire to spend more time with his wife Alexandra and daughter Lexi.