The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
IN December 2019, ambitious Zifa Southern Region Division One side, FC Talen Vision entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with United States of America-based football coach, Zenzo Ndlovu.
It was after Ndlovu had been introduced to FC Talen Vision, Khumbulani Nkomo in August 2019 when he had come to Zimbabwe for one of his outreach programmes.
The advent of the coronavirus however, saw both parties not benefiting from the partnership since Ndlovu was unable to come to Zimbabwe. In December last year, his journey to Zimbabwe ended in South Africa after he tested positive for Covid-19, had to go into quarantine in South Africa before he headed back to USA after recovering.
Ndlovu eventually made it to Zimbabwe this month and the parties are looking to take the agreement to another level. Should things go according to plan, a Talen Vision Under-23 team could be headed for South Africa in October for two weeks.
The plan is for the team to camp in Mzansi and play some friendly matches there since there is no football in Zimbabwe so that when the sport does make a return, they are ready. ZSPORTS, Ndlovu’s academy in South Africa has secured facilities in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
“We are taking our MoU a step further, Soccer4life is a club, I have an academy called ZPSORTS, last year July I came into a partnership with a school in Mpumalanga, South Africa. Our understanding is that I will develop facilities and then my coaches will train the school, in return they allow me to use the facilities.
“The facilities are almost done, maybe the end of this month or beginning of next month, we are talking about a ground with lawn, borehole, sprinkler system and a clubhouse that will house the whole team.
Since there is lockdown in Zimbabwe, players are not training, South Africa would be ideal, that’s what we are working on, at some point, the Talen Vision academy will go to South Africa with ZSPORTS, train there and play some games,’’ Ndlovu said.
Talen Vision are hoping that they could be allowed to go to South Africa for the training camp and friendly matches.
“We are actually putting things together to say ZSPORTS invites Talen Vision since we are working together, hopefully football authorities will clear us. This partnership should be forging ahead, it must not deprive the other partner who is actually trying to put this MoU into function. It’s an exchange programme, we put resources together, Talen Vision bring whatever resources they have, we put the team together,’’ said a Talen Vision official.
In terms of the agreement, Ndlovu, who runs Soccer4life and ZSPORTS Academy was meant to identify players for Talen Vision during his outreach initiatives in Zimbabwe, which he has been conducting since 2002.
Ndlovu said because he has no intention of forming a football club in Zimbabwe, he decided that if he finds good players, he seconds them to Talen Vision.
“Soccer4life was formed in USA in 2002, it’s a registered under USA Soccer Federation, I use it as an outreach. Because of the work that Nkomo does for the community, our work is similar, we thought its best to work together. I get a lot of young footballers, I do not have a team in Zimbabwe, I never intended to have a team, it’s difficult to run a team from overseas,’’ Ndlovu said.
Two players were discovered from Tsholotsho in 2017, started playing for Talen Vision in 2019 but they have since been sent back home after they became problematic.
“Every time we hold camps, we discover a lot of talented players, that’s when Nkomo suggested that we incorporate in our MoU that players that we discover, Talen Vision will nurture them. We discovered two boys in Tsholotsho in December but sadly we had to let them go because they had started giving problems,’’ he said.
Another possible benefit for Talen Vision is the prospect of taking part in the Dallas Cup, a tournament in which Bantu Rovers participated in 2012.
“There are opportunities to market Talen Vision, Dallas Cup is one of the biggest youth tournaments, Bantu Rovers once took part, exposure is immense. Through my presence there, it makes it easy for Talen Vision to be part of it,’’ Ndlovu said.
He is also looking to use his contacts in Germany to benefit Talen Vision as there are prospects for local players to get deals to play in the European country.
“I have contacts in Germany, I have sent players there, I realised that this opportunity can benefit Talen Vision as well.”
During his visit to Zimbabwe, Ndlovu donated kit to youngsters in Bulawayo, Nyamandlovu and Filabusi. In December, he gave teams in Bulawayo three sets of kit each while two uniforms went to Tsholotsho.
Ndlovu is employed by the City of Mobile in Alabama as a sports co-ordinator responsible for grassroots soccer development.
A former Highlanders junior player, Ndlovu secured a scholarship to the University of Mobile through ex-Bosso player, Kelly Jacobson and left for USA in 2000.
Ndlovu said going to USA was part of plan to break into professional football and his journey took him as far as Huddersfield in England. He gave on playing professional football in 2002 and focused on coaching and Christian outreach programmes.
It was after he completed his coaching course in 2002, he returned to Zimbabwe that same year with equipment which he gave away to children who attended his first coaching clinic in Nguboyenja where he grew up. Ndlovu used to come home for coaching clinic and distributing equipment to aspiring footballers until he took a break in 2007 before he resumed in 2017.
Ndlovu’s desire is to provide a bridge for aspiring footballers so that they do not get left out.
“I had no one who supplied me with equipment, I am in a position to do that for other kids so that’s what drives me. I want to be a bridge, no kid should be left behind, every child must get same playing ground if it’s possible. I’ve been doing this for 19 years, every time you give a child, be it soccer boots or socks, the smile that you get is worth it,’’ he said.
Ndlovu is a holder of a USA B coaching licence and is working on the A coaching badge that would allow him to coach college, semi-pro as well as become an assistant in the Major League Soccer. — @Mdawini_29