8 November 2018

Zimbabwe: Plea to Help Zim Junior Teams

ANOTHER promising young soccer player -- Craig Chikwanha -- who has got his roots in Zimbabwe has been unearthed in England, but there are fears that like many other budding stars before him, he might end up playing for the European country if he is not quickly called up to play for our national junior teams.

Phillip Zulu, a UK-based Zimbabwean junior football coach, yesterday revealed that Chikwanha (10) has been offered a six-week trial at Sheffield United's academy where he will join two other promising young Zimbabwean players who include Bernard Makwedza.

Sheffield United once used to be the home of the legendary former Warriors captain Peter Ndlovu and the team currently competes in the Championship, the second tier of English football.

Zulu yesterday said that Sheffield United recently invited Chikwanha for trials at their academy after having been impressed by his skills while he was working with the youngster at his own academy which is based in Leeds.

And in a letter sent to ZIFA president, Philip Chiyangwa, on Tuesday, Zulu highlighted the urgent need for some of these young, talented UK-based players to be called-up for national duties with the Young Warriors if Zimbabwe are harbouring any ambitions of becoming one of the African football powerhouses in the future.

"I would like to highlight a few achievements on our part this side concerning our junior football development programmes that have been targeting mostly young Zimbabweans. We are excited that Craig Chikwanha, a 10-year-old talented player, has been offered a six-week trial at Sheffield United's academy where he looks certain to join two other young Zimbabweans (Bernard Makwedza and the other one).

"Craig is a very talented player that we could lose in the near future to England because of top abilities for his age and style of football that is highly in demand in Europe.

"Our worries at the moment are mainly associated with the pending junior national tournaments, namely the Under-23 Olympic Games Qualifiers and the cosafa Under-20 and 17 competitions, which we strongly feel that we can win if we get the right support and continuity henceforth.

"We can win all these tournaments if most of these Europe-based players are invited (to play for the Warriors), starting with the cosafa Under-20 tournament in Zambia . . . We can go far and make your leadership the most successful ever in the whole of Africa and beyond Asia.

"We have more than 20 players in professional academies that we have coached at the moment and we feel that at this stage, inviting them to come and serve their country at junior level will enhance their careers early and have an impact on the international market transfer valuation.

"In the above inter-market, there is Sharma Bako of Zimbabwe and Dimitri Toumazou (a Cypriot valued at €50 000) and are players that I work with. At (German club) Vfb Lubeck we have two Zimbabweans, Seth Patrick and Sharma Bako, that I sent to this club and were offered professional contracts, the only difference is that they didn't play at national junior teams like their counterpart Dimitri Toumazou, who has represented Cyprus from the Under-17s, hence his surge in valuation.

"So I kindly ask for your intervention and strong leadership qualities, to start with this cosafa Under-20 tournament in Zambia and all the others, so that our young players are not at any disadvantages.

"Most of these players are playing against top teams in Germany and England so they're more than ready to bring you some international silverware if they get help in terms of acquiring flight expenses paid for them. We had been promised by one sponsor, some flight expenses paid for, but they pulled out citing their budgetary constraints due to the prevailing monetary policy, but remained upbeat for next year and reconsider their position.

"Lastly, we can make a big difference if you allow us to get involved with all junior national teams and instil more clout and comprehensive coaching skills that we have used to nurture Zimbabwean young talents abroad," Zulu said in his letter to the ZIFA president, Chiyangwa.

The overtures by the UK-based juniors development coach also brings back to the fore the debate that raged earlier this year about national team coaches casting their nets overseas following the dismal showing by the Under-17 team at the COSAFA Championships.

He also said Zimbabwe's possible first ever World Cup qualification in Qatar 2022 hinges largely on the success of these junior national tournaments now "and in the next three years, including all senior national teams' AFCON tournaments".

"We have the capability and pedigree to reach proper knockout stages of this coming 2019 AFCON finals and the next one in 2021 and the Qatar World Cup 2022 if we urgently and seriously invest resources in these junior national teams that have so much talent in their ranks.

"At the moment and at this rate, there's not even a single southern African nation with such collective talents and strategic outlays, we can only compete with Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco, but we are more organised than them because we are functional on the ground and directing our efforts towards national structures without too much distractions," Zulu concluded.

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