Talent abound in outlying areas

HARARE - Results in Mzansi’s premier knockout competition, the Nedbank Cup, have once again highlighted the need for African countries especially our treasured Zimbabwe to identify and nurture talent from far and wide the countryside, instead of concentrating only in the urban areas.

Last Saturday, a small club in Mzansi’s third tier, Maluti FET College, brewed one of the biggest soccer shockers the world over when they slaughtered reigning league champions Orlando Pirates 4-1 in the first round of the Nedbank Cup.

As if that feat was not incredible enough, another Second Division side Tembu Royals from Eastern Cape travelled to King Zwelithini Stadium in Durban on Wednesday where they left eThekwini’s oldest club Amazulu confounded after inflicting them one of the most painful knockout punches. Tembu defeated Usuthu 2-1 as Second Division clubs underlined the fact that there was little to separate Premier League and First Division sides from the rest of the pack.

Cape Town All Stars could have completed a remarkable treble but Black Leopards held on to an unconvincing 5-4 home win as lower sides highlighted the need for talent scouts not to focus only on big and urban based teams.

The Nedbank Cup is the equal of England’s FA Cup here and typical of these knockout competitions, the best part of them are shocking results year in year out.

No one in their wildest of dreams would have expected all-conquering Buccaneers to be humbled by such a small side from the far flung areas of the farming province of Free State. But not only were the Ghosts knocked out of the richest cup competition on the African continent, it was the margin of defeat that sent out some shock waves across the continent and the world at large.

The result opened up talk show debates on how talent was abound in areas coaches dread to visit and why it is imperative for those searching for ability and flair to cast their net far and wide. It is not only in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban or Pretoria where good players are found; neither is it in Harare and Bulawayo only as is the case at present moment.

At a time I was growing up in some remote village in Masvingo, I used to listen on the radio of soccer stars coming from Mhangura, Rio Tinto, Kamativi and even rural areas like St Paul’s Musami where the great George Shaya started his career.

Even in the early 1980s, there were some unknown small clubs that used to knock out the likes of the then Cup Kings CAPS United in the Zifa Cup.

If I may then ask, what happened to the talent search that didn’t zoom in only within the big cities? What would the talent pipeline be like if Zimbabwe coaches were to more often visit far-flung areas instead of the narrow-mindedness that Mbare, Highfield, Mufakose, Makokoba and Mzilikazi are the only neighbourhoods thriving with talent?

What such thinking has done is killing potential talent which could have taken the country to the next level. A lot of average players turn out for bigger clubs because they happen to come from townships where most coaches find easier to access.

It is a sad indictment how soccer, unlike other elite sports, is run. National associations should also play their role in planting resources in remote and rural areas to encourage the talent.

As things stand, a lot of talent is lost through this non-proactive management whose end result only benefit a few. There are lots of great players out there who end up frustrated because their talent go unnoticed. Things should change. - Tinotenda Panashe

*Panashe can be contacted by e-mail at Tinotenda.Panashe@gmail.com

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