BY MICHAEL KARIATI
SCHOOL and football haven’t always mixed. It is well-documented that some players, particularly in decades past, had to let their education fall by the wayside if they were going to make it as a footballer, given the time and dedication needed to excel in the sport.
Former Dynamos, Masvingo United and Amazulu striker Lloyd Hlahla was one of the select few Zimbabwean footballers who were able to strike a balance between his education and football during his career.
After a fruitful playing career in which he played for some of the country’s biggest clubs with success, Hlahla is now reaping the rewards of his hard work, back in the noble old profession, which he says, is bringing him better financial returns than football.
Hlahla has now dedicated his life to raising future academic stars at one of Harare’s private schools, Tynwald Primary, where he is a grade seven teacher.
“I am happy with what I am doing now. I am earning more than what I used to get in football. I can afford whatever my family needs. I am not begging like what others are doing,” says Hlahla in apparent reference to too many former footballers who are living in poverty after retiring from the game.
The former Masvingo United lynchpin and Warriors trialist says it is unfortunate that footballers get over-excited when they get into mainstream soccer and forget that education is also important in their lives.
Hlahla says after realising the importance of education, he decided to pursue his studies while still active in football after enrolling for his teaching diploma at Bondolfi Teachers College in 2000.
The teaching course was organised by his former club Masvingo United. The late Masvingo United owner, Tanda Tavaruva, had a facility where his academically-gifted players, who had 5 O’ Levels, would be given a chance to enrol at the local teachers’ college with the club paying their tuition fees.
“Education is very important in our lives while a career in sport is short, be it in football or basketball or any other sporting discipline. While in sport you are quickly forgotten once you are injured or get sick, but your education stays with you, and you can use it anywhere. This is a lesson for all the football players. I got one, am enjoying school after football” the now 43-year-old Hlahla jokingly said.
Hlahla revealed that he did not make any significant financial earnings from football even after playing for Dynamos – arguably the biggest football team in the land.
He says the thing he enjoyed about the game was flying to different countries.
“I was very excited with boarding planes at an early age. It’s something I will never forget. It was something I dreamt of and I got it in football,” said Hlahla.
The former Shabanie Mine and Shooting Stars striker also starred for many other clubs including Amazulu, Guni United, Masvingo United, Masvingo Colts, Kismet, not forgetting Botswana Meat Commission.
Prior to that he was in 1995 voted the Coca-Cola Schools Player of the Tournament at Chemukute High School, and in the process was chosen for trials with Bristol City in England, but missed out the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I was supposed to go to England with Winstone Makamure who was at that time Peter Ndlovu’s manager. But I got injured a few weeks before departure. It still hurts me that I missed such an opportunity,” reflects Hlahla.
He has advice for those Zimbabwean footballers earning huge sums of money in foreign lands.
“Nothing beats home. They should invest back at home because football will come to an end and they will return to where they came from,” he warned.
Hlahla is married to Hamunyari Gasela and the couple has three children, Tadiwanashe (20), Kimberley (16) and Nenyasha (7). His dream is to see all Zimbabwean footballers go up to A’ Level at school.