The Herald (Harare)

9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Mbanje Settles At Leeds

PROMISING young Zimbabwean soccer player Munyaradzi Mbanje has already started training with the Leeds United academy well ahead of starting his two-year scholarship at the English Championship side. Mbanje, touted to be the next Joel "Jubilee" Shambo, was late last year offered a two-year scholarship at Leeds United after he impressed the club's junior coaches while playing for their Under-16 side.

The talented 16-year-old Mufakose-born player was initially scheduled to start his two-year scholarship at Leeds in June this year but according to a source close to his family in the United Kingdom, the youngster is already training with the club's academy.

Mbanje is also hoping to sign his first professional contract with Leeds United during his two-year scholarship at the club.

"Munya is (already) training with the academy but lately he had some sessions with the (Leeds United) youth team.

"During his two-year scholarship at Leeds United, Munya will not be going to school instead he will be going to the club's academy daily, all expenses paid for and he will be given some allowances," said the UK-based source, who asked not to be named "for professional reasons".

And if Mbanje manages to break into the Leeds United's first team, there are clauses to be triggered and this will see the club signing him on as a professional footballer within two years.

Mbanje has been staying in England for just over a year and has been featuring for Leeds United's junior teams for the past year following his arrival in the European country from Zimbabwe. Upon his arrival in England, Mbanje first worked under UK-based Zimbabwean coach Phillip Zulu who described the talented young player as "the next big thing for Zimbabwean football after the late great former Warriors captain Joel 'Jubilee' Shambo."

Zulu also further described Mbanje as a player who has a high level of technique and football understanding that is beyond his age.

In fact, Zulu has over the past couple of years been nurturing a number of young Zimbabwean players who are based in the UK.

Zulu recently enrolled for a youth module Uefa course due to start in March this year and is also expecting to get his (Uefa) coaching licence the following month.

Apart from grooming a number of UK-based young Zimbabwean players, Zulu has also managed to nurture one Nigerian kid who, like Mbanje, is now with the Leeds United academy.

According to reports from UK, the young Nigerian player, who is 13, is said to be better than Cote d'lvoire's striker Didier Drogba "because he is big and very skilful for his age".

Leeds-based former CAPS United player, Zulu, is, in fact, doing wonders from the heart of the county as he trains and raises youths to qualify for the prestigious English Premiership football league.

Zulu, an accredited English FA trained coach, has already successfully spring-boarded a few lads towards the millionaire fame through his Zimbabwe Milestone Academy, a charity organisation which sponsors aspiring players from disadvantaged backgrounds into the footy career.

Meanwhile, Zulu is now reported to have become a full-time scout for Leeds United and this should be some sweet music in the ears of a number of young UK-based Zimbabwean players who are itching to turn professional in that country.

In fact, England is now the home of a number of promising young Zimbabwean players and they include Miki White and Brendon Galloway.

Midfielder Galloway, born on March 17, 1996, is currently playing for Milton Keynes Dons' Under-16 side and he was recently included in the England Under-16 squad.

Galloway became the youngest first team player in Milton Keynes Dons's history at 15 years of age after making his debut as a 79th minute substitute in a 6-0 victory at home to Nantwich Town in the FA Cup first round tie on November 12, 2011.

He made his league debut after starting for MK Dons in a 2-1 victory at Rochdale on April 28, 2012.

But Galloway's inclusion in the England Under-16 squad did not please a UK-based Zimbabwean coach Charlie "Maskiri" White who recently expressed his fears that the young player might turn his back on Zimbabwe and play for England in the future.

"I think this is a sad or disappointing development because a Zimbabwean youngster (is) now lost to England. This boy and many more including Miki and company will end up playing for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland because Zifa are not interested in having a look at these young boys who are based here in the UK . . . What a loss to Zimbabwe," Charlie White recently said from his base in Luton, England.

To address this, Charlie White said he was willing to assemble a team of these talented young UK-based Zimbabwean players whom he would like fly to Zimbabwe for a number of exhibition matches with the Young Warriors.

"I'm ready and willing to assemble a team of these young Zimbabwean players and with the help of their parents who are based here in the UK, we will fly them to Zimbabwe to play with the national Under-20 and 17 teams.

"What we only need from Zifa is an assurance from them that they will take care of these young players' welfare, including accommodation and food, during their brief stay in Zimbabwe for these exhibition matches.

"I think this will go a long way in helping Zifa and the national coaches in Zimbabwe to assess these young players and see who they can be able to call for national duties in the future.

"In the meantime, I will also be monitoring their progress at their different clubs or academies here in the UK and giving Zifa and the national coaches some feedback," Charles White said.

The former Arcadia United player said he was willing to offer his services to Zifa for free.

Another Zimbabwean player in the UK, Bradley Pritchard, who was not known to many until last year when he was called into the Warriors squad for the first time, is currently doing well for his English Championship side Charlton Athletic.

Pritchard is now a target of many established teams such as Aston Villa, Wigan and Reading who are understood to be looking at the player "seriously." Bradley seems to have done very well in this division and it seems most teams with defensive problems, starting from holding midfielders, are looking at him seriously. I heard that Villa, Reading and Wigan were the most serious ones," said a source from England.

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