BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
ACES Youth Soccer Academy (AYSA) founder Nigel Munyati’s first love is football, but he has failed to resist the lure of arts, which he inherited from the environment he grew up in.
Away from the flourishing academy as well as his other role as a member on the influential Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) board, Munyati is the executive director of the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF).
Arts punctuated Munyati’s life early as his father played a pivotal role in a number of musicians’ careers and his mother created a TV programme, Pfukumbwe, screened on Rhodesia Television.
A holder of a degree in Food Science, Munyati took time to reflect on his love for film and football.
“I grew up in an artistic family as both my parents were involved in the arts. My father was a music entrepreneur who helped many young musicians become famous. Oliver Mtukudzi used to say I played my first acoustic guitar at your father’s house,” Munyati told The Sports Hub.
“In the 1970s there were a lot of talented musicians who did not have money to buy instruments and my father Dickson Munyati had money to buy instruments, so he would partner with them and share the proceeds. There are a lot of musicians such as the late Mtukudzi and James Chimombe, among many others, who passed through my father’s stable.
“My mother was also enterprising. She had a TV programme called Pfukumbwe on Rhodesia TV, which was the first to bring black children to Pockets Hill. My late brother Mike was a TV personality and also my eldest brother Rodwell was a news reader at ZBC. So you when grow up in such an environment you develop a love for film,” he revealed.
Munyati, who made a name as a football administrator in the 1990s, is the co-founder of the AYSA, a football academy famed for producing Warriors captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
He has also been key in the Zimbabwe film industry, but at the end of it all he wants to pursue football full-time.
“I created this organisation, Zimbabwe International Film Festival Trust, in 1997. I haven’t always been involved directly. I only started to get involved when it was struggling with viability challenges in 2013.
“I stepped down from the board and became executive director. I think we have managed to resuscitate the organisation and bring it to a stage where it can stand on its own. That way, I can focus more on football because that’s my passion,” he said.
Last year, Munyati was chosen to be part of the new SRC board, which is led by prominent lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa, and reflects on the experience thus far.
“It’s an honour, which I think recognises the fact that I have done a lot for Zimbabwean sport. “This is an institution which has been fractured for a long time and has never performed effectively, so our first challenge is to transform the image itself,” he said.
“Unfortunately, it started with the firing of the Zimbabwe Cricket board and followed by Zifa, which is regrettable because it gives the impression that we are here to fire [people]. It’s going to take a long time to transform the SRC and also how sport is administered in the country.
“The biggest challenge in sport is bad governance and one of the biggest tragedies for me is that politicians also want to run sport in this country. I think they need to decide what they want to do because politics and sport are very demanding by themselves,” Munyati said.
Growing up in Highfield, Munyati went to the US in the early 1980s to study.
After initially enrolling at the University of Missouri, he moved to Pennsylvania State University two years later because the former didn’t have a soccer team.
He went on to help the University to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football finals in 1984.
In 2013 Munyati ran for the Zifa presidency against Cuthbert Dube and garnered zero votes.
“I am proud to be one of the aspiring Zifa presidential candidates to have polled zero votes in 2013 and you know why? I told the councillors that I would not give them money because they needed to change the way things are done.
“I told them you know the contribution I can make to our football and that should be sufficient payment. To me, it was vindication and a reflection that our councillors are still corrupt, the system is so corrupt that it doesn’t recognise efforts to do the things right,” he said.
Munyati played football for Black Aces in 1981 /82 and then Rio Dairibord between 1985 and 1986.
He became a co-chairman of Dairibord Football Club in 1988, was a founding trustee of the Fish Eagle Trust in 1996 and in 2000 he initiated one of his most recognised success stories when he and Marc Duvillard established the Aces Youth Soccer Academy.
The academy has churned out some of the country’s top talents.