THE ASEC Mimosas Football Academy in Ivory Coast is referred to as "the crown jewel of African football" by virtue of having churned out some of the best talent on the continent.
Notable names that have been hatched from the academy's nest include Yaya and Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, Gervinho, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboue, Romaric, Giles Yapi Yapo, Bakari Koné, Abdul Razak, Siaka Tiéné and Boubacar Barry.
Though still far from reaching the heights of the famous ASEC Mimosas Youth Academy, Zimbabwe's Aces Soccer Youth Academy (Aysa) is growing very fast and promises to be the hub of talent in the region.
Already, the academy, which is housed in Waterfalls' Parktown suburb, has given to the world Knowledge Musona (TSG Hoffenheim), Khama Billiat (Ajax Cape Town), Lincoln Zvasiya, Brian Abbas Amidu (both Kaizer Chiefs) and Darryl Nyandoro of former African champions TP Mazembe.
These players have become vital cogs in the warriors set up. The local league is also littered with Aysa products who include Brian Mapfumo (Monomotapa), Mitchelle Katsvairo (FC Platinum), Luckson Kaisa (CAPS United) and George Chigova, who is with Dynamos.
The Mighty Warriors have also benefitted as Rufaro Machingura, Onai Chingawo, Eunice Chibanda, Merjury Nyaumwe, Kudzanayi Chiparaushe, Sheilla Makoto and Violet Bepete also came through the ranks of the academy.
Chiparaushe has already secured a place with a university in the US, a country revered for its women's football exploits.
Other players like Elizabeth Chakarangana, Tafadzwa 'Ballack' Tsunguro, Emma Mlilo and Daizy Kaitano are with the Young Mighty Warriors.
Nigel Munyati, one of the academy's directors, said their main thrust was not only on football.
"We do not only produce footballers here, but intellectuals as well. Right now we have a young lady, Christina Chikomo from this academy who is studying for an IT degree at a Malaysian university and we are paying her fees.
"There is also Arnold Chemhere, Gilmore Maumba and Gideon Moyoweshumba, who are studying for their respective degrees at South African universities," said Munyati. Five teachers are fully employed for supplementary tuition at the academy which currently accommodates 20 boys, who have joined 45 other children, both boys and girls, enrolled at Lord Malvern High School where their fees and school uniforms are catered for by the academy.
A fully-equipped kitchen, a broadband-connected computer lab, fully-stocked library, study room, spacious lounge with pay-per-view satellite television, kit room and a table tennis room are some of the facilities at the academy's clubhouse that are unmatched by traditional giants in the local Premier Soccer League (PSL).
With qualified coaches taking charge of junior and senior teams of both boys and girls, together with a staff compliment that includes a legal and administration manager, experienced chefs, IT administrator and clubhouse manager Bernard Kirimi, Aysa augurs the image of a serious institution.
Interestingly, each dormitory at the academy is named after European clubs' home grounds like Stamford Bridge, Anfield, Nou Camp and Old Trafford in which Musona used to stay.
Munyati, however, lamented his disappointment with Zifa.
"It is disheartening that no one from Zifa has ever set their foot at this place since we started in 2001," said Munyati, who is also Zifa board member marketing.
"They were keen to know about this place which has produced Zvasiya, Billiat, Abbas Amidu and Musona who had taken the South African Premiership by storm.
"Musona is currently scoring goals for the national team and contributed 90% of goals in Zimbabwe's last campaign to qualify for the Africa Nations Cup, which is more than enough to generate interest from Zifa or everyone else to know where the boy came from."
Aysa's senior boys who are all under the age of 21 compete in the Northern Region Division One League.