THE winner of the Unilever sponsored Shield-Chelsea football talent search, Joseph Mandevani, left the country on Tuesday for a five-day football camp in London where he will rub shoulders with the London club’s legends.
The 19-year-old footballer will join youths from other African countries who will combine to form an Africa XI team that will have the privilege of playing the Chelsea Legends.
The camp starts today and ends on Sunday.
In London, Mandevani and others are set to experience training, under the watchful eyes of expert coaches at Cobham centre, the Chelsea training ground.
He will get an opportunity to watch Chelsea live in action against Cardiff City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
“I am extremely excited about this trip. I worked very hard to be here, now it’s a dream come true,’’ he said.
‘’I want to thank God, my family and my friends for their support during this whole project. From the time I entered the trials, until now, they have been very supportive.’’
The opportunity to fly to London and meet Chelsea Legends came from Unilever’s Shield brand partnership with Chelsea Football Club, which was established in 2017.
Under the partnership, Zimbabwean youths and other African amateur football players are presented with the opportunity to feel and see what it means to train like professionals.
Mandevani shrugged off stiff competition from hundreds of other youths who attended the initial trials held in Bulawayo and Harare.
Four local football coaches – former Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa, ex-Highlanders coach, Cosmas ‘’Tsano’’ Zulu, former Dynamos midfielder Naison Muchekela and former CAPS United star Alois Bunjira – took charge of the trials.
The trials saw 34 amateur footballers going for a week-long camp where they got a chance to be trained by Chelsea coaches – Laurence Griffin, Steve O’ Reilly and Freddie Myers – in July.
“This is a moment that I have been waiting for,’’ said Mandevani. ‘’I thank Unilever for giving me this rare opportunity through their Shield brand.
‘’I hope to make friends and get the connections to transform my football career. I will do my best to raise the Zimbabwean flag high.’’
Shield brand manager Susan Luneta said they are happy with the way the talent search went on.
“We are glad we have successfully managed to send the lucky Zimbabwean youngster to London and present him with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
‘’It’s been a long journey since this Shield talent search was launched in April.
“This campaign has demonstrated to us that Zimbabwe has massive untapped football talent. We hope we can make it bigger and better next year,” said Luneta.