Allen Khumalo, Sports Reporter
ZIFA Southern Region chairman Musa Mandaza has hailed Bulawayo province for its vibrant junior policy that has brought hope to the development of football at the grassroots level.
Mandaza said Bulawayo boasts of being the only province in the country with a junior league that has produced teams like Bantu Rovers, who made it to the topflight league with a bulk of its players being youngsters.
“Bulawayo province has got the best junior policy that has seen it running a junior league.
The province’s junior league has all the age groups from Under-14s, Under-16 and Under-18.
As a province, we also boast of our Serie A and Serie B set-ups, which other provinces do not have,” said Mandaza.
He however said the major challenge facing the province was lack of sponsorship.
Mandaza said the province has produced youngsters who are now plying their trade outside the country, a confirmation that it has abundant talent.
He said there was therefore a need for proper marketing in order to attract sponsorship.
The Division One league is set to start on the weekend of April 15-16 and Mandaza said the association was looking forward to building direct links with schools in both urban and rural areas so that the youngsters get the necessary exposure.
“One thing of interest is that we are going to have a Division Two league being played in Binga for the first time. Who knows, maybe this is the home of legends or maybe in future we might even have a Premier League team from Binga. This is a whole new programme that we are having and I am so excited that in a few years to come we will have Division One football in rural areas.
“The Matabeleland North provincial committee has gone out of its way to make sure this initiative is a success. This is also a very good sign as it shows that the net for scouting talent is being widened to cover every part of the country. I’m happy that we have teams like Tsholotsho who are from a rural area,” he said.
Mandaza said the Southern Region would be going all out to have grassroots coaches to cater for children from the age of six.
The coaches will be responsible for ensuring that young talent is nurtured both on the field and in academia because not everyone is good at school.
“We don’t want to just groom them, but we want to nurture them for future use. Who knows, maybe one day we will have the future Peter Ndlovus,” he said.
Bulawayo has been the epicentre of junior football in Zimbabwe, producing soccer stars such as the Ndlovu brothers, Madinda, Peter and the late Adam, Bruce Grobbelaar, Benjani Mwaruwari, the late Benjamin Nkonjera, Agent Sawu and a host of other talented players that came up through the junior football league and went on to make successful careers.
Bulawayo produced legendary junior football mentors like Ali “Baba” Dube, a man whose fingerprints can be traced beyond our borders.