A group of boys who used to play soccer at a roundabout in Alexandra Park are now part of a team called The Obama Boys. It is an initiative of staff members from the United States Embassy who play football at Belgravia Sports Club. Spotting these youths playing the game they love, the staff invited them to join in with their own game.
The matches are usually played at Belgravia Sports Club on Fridays or Saturdays. With support from Embassy staff, they constituted the competitive outfit known as the Obama Boys. The team competes at semi-professional level, plays regular matches and is part of the competitive Professionals Soccer League (PSL).
Supported by American Embassy staff David Bonnardeaux and Evan Fox, the team is co-managed by Lameck Bizali of Public Affairs Section (PAS) and Bruno Nyikadzino. PAS staff member Sizani Weza is the main sponsor covering ground and referee’s fees as well as limited medical supplies and water.
The Obama Boys have also managed to play and provide sport entertainment to the kids in Chiedza Child Care Centre and Maningi Academy.
The boys on the team come from different social and economic backgrounds though most are the sons of workers from nearby. Being on the team has meant different things to the boys.
Harare News caught up with some of them before their match against Holiday Inn last month, which they went on to win 4-0. This meant that they maintained second position in the PSL, enough to get them into the Champion’s League. Here is what some of them said:
Munashe Marineli (17): “I had a passion since Grade 2, as I stayed in the rural areas where soccer had died but when I came to the city I took it up and played for small teams. Then I met Obama Boys in 2011. I have once been spotted and played with Dynamos. I met Sizani in 2011 and he has been personally helpful to me. We do tournaments and I’m hoping that big teams can take me.”
Tatenda Dsvokora (20): “Soccer is in my blood. I’m currently looking for a soccer scholarship in the States. The US education advisor suggested that I join Obama Boys as I need videos of myself playing. I am with Obama Boys till I get it.”
Kudakwashe Tembo (20): “Here I get first preference, people are friendly, and everyone loves and appreciates what I do. I’m looking at being spotted by people and go to another level with soccer.
Washington Mandirini (23): “Obama is more than social soccer because it has talent. There are plenty of opportunities for people to notice us when playing, we get to play and be spotted by scouts. Obama will always be in my heart because it’s a league that has put us in the spotlight and I have gained much experience.”
Sergiol Munyaradzi Zhakata (17): “My passion for soccer increased in grade 2, being part of Obama has helped me network with people and gain experience, in each game I learn something and I hope to play in Europe someday.”