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» » Junior leagues, academies key to untapped sports talent

Clayton Shereni

While some cities boast of having junior leagues and vibrant academies in various sporting disciplines, Masvingo still lags behind though some of the finest talent in Zimbabwe trace roots back to the province and it seems sports administrators and the corporate world are far from walking the talk in promoting and nurturing young talent.
Pamushana, Chibi, Gutu, Chidyamakono and Dewure High Schools have been forces to reckon with at national sports tournaments especially in Netball, Soccer and Volleyball but little has been done to tap talent from these schools.
Six former Pamushana pupils shined at the netball world cup in United Kingdom last year with Claris Kwaramba and Sharon Bwanali attracting attention from Australian clubs.
Charles Manyuchi who hails from Masvingo province has managed to set up a boxing academy for young boxers but the academy is based in Chivhu, which makes it hard for some Masvingo school going aspiring boxers to attend training sessions.
Young football players in the country have found fortress at the Willard Katsande’s under-18 annual soccer tournament but this hasn’t been enough since the tournament takes place once a year.
However, for Masvingo the situation is worse, as successful players and the corporate world have turned a blind eye at the young talent which remains untapped.
Other major cities like Bulawayo and Harare pride themselves in Serie A junior league and Harare junior league respectively where junior soccer teams for clubs like Highlanders, Dynamos and Harare City get a chance to showcase their talent.
Not only do these provinces have junior leagues but they have vibrant academies like Aces Youth Soccer Academy in Harare where Khama Billiat started his career and Bantu Rovers Academy in Bulawayo who have produced Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba.
Many Masvingo young football players have been playing in the Mucheke Social League (MSL) while volleyball players from Masvingo Christian College and Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) have been playing in the Dzimbahwe Volleyball league.
In these leagues young talent play against old players some of them who have retired while some just play to maintain physical fitness as they will have lost the hope to turn professional.
Efforts to set up academies have been done with the latest academy being Masvingo Youth Academy (MYA) but the academy’s vision has been thwarted due to lack of funding to acquire proper training equipment.
Tennis has been the only sport which seems to be making strides in nurturing young players as the administrators have set up a vibrant board which seeks to promote young talent.
Young tennis players in Masvingo are promising to conquer the continent with the likes of Ednah Mhango claiming more than 15 accolades including regional trophies before completing her primary school education last year.
Thirteen year old Masvingo tennis ace, Thompson Thomu Jnr is currently in Namibia with team Zimbabwe Under14 team in the International Tennis Federation (ITF)/Confederation of African Tennis (CAT) tourney where he has won a gold and silver medal against Africa’s best junior players.
Tennis coach and Masvingo Tennis board chairman Thompson Thomu said they are in the process of partnering local schools and also revealed that they have lined up seven tournaments for junior tennis aces.
“Our junior players are school going so we are currently heavily engaged with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to try and bring a junior league into their structures.
“We have lined up seven tournaments to be held in Masvingo for the junior players. The tournaments include Masvingo Open, Masvingo Junior Tennis closed I, II, III, Zim closed, Inter provincials  and Simon Muzenda tourney,” said Thomu.
If all sports administrators in the city emulate the tennis board, Masvingo will once again become a hub of producing quality sports personalities.  

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