Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
IT was the ultimate feel-good story that cheered the spirits of a nation — a poor teenager attracting the attention of the country’s biggest financial services group to bail him out and help him pursue his dream to become a professional footballer in Europe.
Everyone was told he was so good he had even attracted the interests of a number of top English sides who had invited him for trials that could provide a breakthrough for him to possibly transform himself into a professional footballer.
English Premiership teams Watford and Crystal Palace and Championship side Queens Park Rangers were all thrown into the fray in what was billed as a massive step in the teenager’s journey towards professionalism in this game.
CBZ Holdings, the country’s biggest financial services group, even came on board and splashed $3 800 towards his trip, amid reports that the full amount they eventually paid was $10 000, with the then chief executive of the company, Never Nyemudzo, personally handing over the cheque at a ceremony in the capital.
That was three years ago.
Back then, the teenage footballer was known as Munashe Gatsi, then still a schoolboy at Kuwadzana High 1, who was said to be in desperate need of a helping hand to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer in England.
Now, on Facebook, he calls himself Shenamu Tsiga.
And, rather than transform himself into the superstar footballer, which fuelled the narrative related to him just three years ago, he now spends most of his time posting his images visiting such iconic football grounds like Stamford Bridge, the home of Chelsea, and the Emirates, the home of Arsenal, in London.
Somewhere, along the line, the Munashe who received a massive helping hand from CBZ Holdings to go and pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer in England, amid some glowing tributes of his massive potential from his coaches and academy, disappeared from the radar.
In his place, it appears, emerged Shenamu Tsiga.
The Facebook character whose social media images, beyond the odd photographs of him as a visiting fan outside The Emirates and Stamford Bridge, appear choreographed to divorce him from his past as a fledgling teenage footballer.
Even those who were fronting his cause, like the Global Sports Academy in Harare, which was very crucial in him getting a financial helping hand from CBZ Holdings to travel to England on the pretext that he was going there for trials at some of the country’s best clubs, appear to have distanced themselves from him.
Whether it’s just a convenient move, because things didn’t turn out the way the parties expected, remains to be interrogated but, what is beyond dispute is that, save from that publicity-fuelled take-off to England, in September 2016, nothing was heard from this partnership.
Of course, until now.
Maybe, it’s something that was never meant to be questioned but, when a big company like CBZ Holdings uses its funds to try and help what appears to be a genuine cause, especially the promotion of under-privileged sports talent, the focus will always remain on the beneficiaries.
Because, when they succeed, it also boosts the chances of thousands of others — who are in the position that Munashe Gatsi was before he became Shenamu Tsiga — to get a similar helping hand, if not from CBZ Holdings themselves, then from other local companies and sponsors.
There are reports he has even applied for asylum to remain in England.
Global Sports Academy prided themselves as an amateur football institution whose mission was to develop promising local footballers and also present them with contacts and opportunities to try their luck in Europe, the United States of America and Canada.
They claim they have sent scores of such individuals to those countries but none of those people have risen to prominence as serious professional athletes since those tours started and this, coupled with Gatsi’s strange tale, has provoked questions about the whole programme.
“After taking a team of 15 Soccer Players from Zimbabwe to Chicago for an Elite Soccer Camp it’s time for me to realise what a milestone and miracle it was,’’ the administrator of the Global Sports Academy Facebook page posted on August 25, 2014.
‘’Life has taught me that when it’s done, a miracle looks simple, after passing through a mountain, it looks like a hill but truth is this was one hell of a mission. Alone, I could not have done this, so to God be the Glory.
‘’The fact that these boys (shone) and played better than most is just the favour of God. The fact that half these soccer players have more than 4 As at O’ Level is amazing.
‘’The fact that 95% of these boys were given some university offers, is testament that in all my drama I should be doing something right. It is evidence that these boys deserve what they got, and that the future of Zimbabwe soccer is (great).’’
The mobile contact number which Global Sports Academy posted as their contact number on their Facebook page was yesterday being answered by someone who said he had no relationship with the organisation and wondered how his phone details came to be posted on that site. The last photos the organisation posted on their Facebook page were last uploaded on December 9, 2015, and — of course — they feature some young men visiting such stadiums like Old Trafford in Manchester, something which thousands of tourists from around the world do every day.
Some of the individuals which Global Sports Academy revealed they had helped along the way are ‘’Takudzwa Imbayago, defensive midfielder — USA; M. Zulu defensive midfielder — USA; Michael Veremu central defender — Canada; Elijah Madzikatire, winger- USA; Valetine Maponga; playmaker — USA; Panashe Chikwengo, striker — England; Kombo Chiwara midfielder — England; Yasser Chapfika, forward — Spain; Anelle Siwawa, forward — USA; Ruramai Chakuzira, midfielder- USA; Benjie Musaka, midfielder — South Africa; Gerald Chari, defender- South Africa; Dudzai Manomano, midfielder — England.’’
However, one of these players, whose name has even regularly featured in the narrative when possible Zimbabwean footballers based in Europe, who could be considered for the Warriors, are mentioned is not even playing competitive football.
He married a European woman and has turned himself into a fitness trainer.
However, to keep the narrative he is still actively involved in the game, he has been on a social media offensive where he posts images of himself at various stadiums, in football kits, to provide a false impression he is doing well in the sport.
There are even concerns some of the people who have been moved to England, the United States and Canada are not athletes but the avenues are being abused to create easy routes for those seeking to start lives in those country, at a certain fee to the academies, using their disguise as footballers or sprinters, to gain entrance into those countries.
‘’A number of these so-called academies have been running a human trafficking scheme, charging huge amounts to those who want to go and settle in Europe, the United States or Canada, to go there first disguised as footballers or athletes, and once they are there, they just disappear into the system,’’ sources said.
‘’That’s the reason why ZIFA even suggested they wanted to register all these academies because it had been brought to their attention that they have been converted into money-making schemes where the main thrust now is to take young men to Europe, especially England, and the United States and Canada under the disguise they had a lot of potential to become serious athletes.’’