The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
MANY sportspersons the world over fail to plan for the future while they are still active which has seen them find the going tough when their careers are over.
Perhaps it was that in mind that Chicken Inn midfielder Clemence Matawu decided to head back to school as he has enrolled for a Bachelor of Applied Science Honours Degree in Sports Science and Coaching at the National University of Science and Technology.
As he was bossing the midfield for Chicken Inn this season, leading to the Gamecocks clinching their first ever Premier Soccer League title, little did the fans, who marvelled at his brilliance in the field, know that Matawu had to juggle between training sessions and studies.
Matawu revealed that he has always wanted to further enhance his academic qualifications since he was not that bad at high school. The 33-year-old Bindura born and Shamva raised star disclosed that he passed seven subjects at Ordinary level and went on to secure four points at Advanced level.
Initially Matawu who was educated at Shamva Primary, Chipindura High, Hermann Gmeiner and Churchill Boys High wanted to venture into Business Management but realised that with sports science he could make a meaningful contribution to Zimbabwean sport.
But mixing studies and soccer is nothing new to Matawu as former Motor Action owner Eric Rosen took Matawu to Churchill for his Upper Six which he finished in 2001 while then turning out for the Mighty Bulls. Back then Matawu missed the team’s morning training sessions at Morris Depot for school, while fine tuning in the afternoon.
Having played football at a professional level since 2001, Matawu decided to enrol at NUST this year. A pass in Mathematics at O-level and his sporting experience must have counted in his favour in securing a place at the science institution.
Instead of choosing the block release programme, Matawu chose the conventional route where he has to be in class from 8am to 5pm Monday through to Friday. It has not been easy to balance going to school and attending Chicken Inn training sessions. His reasons for being a fulltime student was that since he had been away from school for a long time he needed to be in an environment where he gets a lot of learning time. His class only has three students, two females and Matawu.
“I attended class every day of the week except when we had matches or we were travelling. I always try to find time to study, I realised that since I had struggled with my sciences, I needed time in class,’’ Matawu said.
Matawu finished writing his first semester examinations last Thursday and the exams saw him miss the Castle Soccer Star of the Year awards ceremony in Harare on 4 December where he was one of the finalists.
His favourite module is Fundamentals of Athletics since he has the practical experience. He believes that had he taken up that course early into his career he could have been one of the best ever soccer players Zimbabwe has produced.
“I realised that where I am now I want to be involved in football even when I retire from playing. For me to continue I need scientific knowledge of sport. If I had done this at the beginning of my career I was going to be one of the best ever players in Zimbabwe. I am learning a lot in terms of diet for athletes,’’ said Matawu.
On what he has learnt in the three months he has been a university student, Matawu is of the view that in Zimbabwean sport, basic stuff is forgotten. He says that when he finishes his degree he wants to be able to help the nation adopt a scientific approach to sport.
At the beginning of this year Matawu obtained his Zifa Level One football coaching certificate in Harare and with NUST being able to facilitate four courses, by the time he is done with his degree, he wants to have completed Level Four.
The 2006 Soccer Star of the Year has tried to encourage his Chicken Inn teammates to follow the route he has taken by going back to school albeit without success so far. Matawu, who spent a few years in Poland, has wise words for local footballers who think it is all glowing out there in Europe.
“My advice to local footballers is that they should try going back to school, it is not all rosy out there in Europe, it is not easy for an African player to go there and start earning big money. School is the best, you need something to fall back on when your career is over,’’ he advised.
On being named amongst the best players for this season, Matawu said he initially laughed when he saw his name on the list saying it was “weird’’ that selectors had included someone who had reached his “sell by date’’, but was quick to say he was grateful that his efforts on the pitch had been recognised.
There was a feeling that Matawu was supposed to compete with eventual winner Danny Phiri for the top award but the agile midfielder had no such expectations. He in fact believes that his teammate Edmore Chirambadare should have made it into the top three.
A married father of two, a girl and a boy with his wife Angeline Sigadula, Matawu who resides in Bulawayo’s upmarket suburb of Selbourne Park has not managed to acquire a property with his football earnings but built a home for his family in Shamva.
He comes from a family of four, two boys and the same number of girls.
Chicken Inn have rewarded Matawu for his industriousness with a two-year contract which will see him at the Gamecocks until the end of 2017. The former Motor Action and Warriors midfielder initially joined the Bulawayo side on a six months contract when he impressed then coach Mandla Mpofu in 2013. He was then offered a one year deal last year with the same arrangement for this season.
Matawu is expected to play an instrumental role as Joey Antipas’ side venture into the African Champions League next year.
On being lauded as one of star players who contributed to Chicken Inn’s success, Matawu believes team work did it for the Gamecocks since they did not miss any player as all of them played a part. The seasoned midfielder played in 28 of the 30 league matches with the fixtures he missed being against Buffaloes and Chapungu.
He has earned himself a number of nicknames over the years, from Naughty flea, King and Kile.
While Matawu leads by example on the field of play, he has also shown the way for fellow footballers off it with his decision to go back to school.