By Tinashe Mukono, UK
The diaspora based Team Zimbabwe UK has been responsible for the unearthing and presentation of exceptional soccer talent such as Tendayi Darikwa and Alec Mudimu and continue to make strides in the discovery and nurturing of Zimbabwean soccer talent abroad. The team recently visited Zimbabwe for a homecoming and familiarisation tour as well as playing friendlies with local teams. TZUK’s Marshall Gore shares with us their story and experiences.
Can you please tell us about the vision behind Team Zimbabwe UK?
I founded the project in 2012 after a Diaspora Committee was set up by the Zimbabwe UK Embassy to host the Zimbabwe Olympic Team and Para-Olympic Team.
After years of in-depth research in football and migration I wrote a white paper document The Zimbabwe Diaspora National Team Development Strategy. The vision was outlined in detail on how Zimbabwe Football was perfectly placed to capitalise on the golden opportunities presented by migration in developing its national teams by harnessing special migrant talent with Zimbabwean roots based abroad. We then shared the document with ZIFA and The Ministry of Sports and Recreation in 2014. The document also clearly outlined the strategy and pathway for ZIFA to follow when capturing the hidden football talent in the Diaspora.
Can you please tell us the administration and technical structures of the team.
Team Zimbabwe UK (TZUK) is a Zimbabwean Diaspora football Development Project set up to harness Zimbabwe’s fine football talent that is hidden outside the country, in the UK and around the world as a result of rampant migration. TZUK is affiliated and regulated by the English FA and our organisational structure goes like this; Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Project Administrator, Board of Directors then we get the Football Advisory Committee, Head of Football Development, Football Development Offices who are the coaches and scouting team with other departments such as football development, media, marketing and fundraising, and events and international liaison.
What criteria are used in selecting the players?
One must be playing professional or semi-professional football and willing to represent Zimbabwe at International Level.
How has the initiative been received back home in Zimbabwe?
It has been received well by progressive people and disliked by those who are short sighted with no international exposure.
What are some of the challenges you encounter and what are some of your successes so far?
Over the last few years, the Diaspora Project has been successful in providing key players to the Zimbabwean National Team. The recent inclusion of Alec Mudimu, Tendayi Darikwa, and Adam Chikensen in the Afcon 2019 qualifiers has been a revelation to the nation and the team. Both Tendayi and Alec acquitted themselves well on and off the pitch. Alec was instrumental in winning the 2018 COSAFA Cup with the Warriors in South Africa. It’s clear that the Diaspora inclusion in our national team has helped to improve the performance of our team and to improve our position on the FIFA world rankings. We also fed in 2 players in the Under 23 National team this year. Seth Patrick and Shama Bako.
One of our challenges has been the issue of resources. At present our growth is limited due to the unavailability of adequate financial resources. Currently, all my activities are voluntary and self-funded. This sometimes makes it difficult to fulfil all planned objectives and mandate without restriction. However we have an ongoing programme of mobilising for resources for our Diaspora national teams via sponsorship using Team Zimbabwe UK. Communication has also been a challenge as the Diaspora Project has no designated communication desk at ZIFA. We are requesting that we are allocated a specific desk to send our reports and to communicate when any concerns arise.
You recently had a tour of the country with the team, what was the motive behind and how was the experience?
Our motivation was to promote development of football, our Tourism and Brand Zimbabwe. Our experience was great. The players connected with the home country, experience home and enjoyed the tour of Great Zimbabwe and Epworth Balancing Rocks. They want to come back again.
Your assessment of the current professional football environment in Zim, in terms of the technical aspects and administration?
We’re still behind professionally and technical compared to European standards, but regionally we’re stronger and much better than others. The rise of several academies mushrooming in Zim could be the revelation to producing future starts.
On the administration side we need to improve massively. Zifa HQ needs retooling with new ideas and modern equipment. Lack of resources play a part in hampering admin progress.
Do you have any local partnerships or initiatives the team is involved in with locals and other Zim Diaspora communities?
We are connected with various Charities. While in Zimbabwe we donated several football kits and football to schools and social clubs in Silobela/Ruwa, Chinyaradzo Children’s home. We unveiled a Borehole in Wedza and also donated goodies.
How big a role can sport in the diaspora play in developing the game?
The key objective of the Diaspora Project is to identify Zimbabwe’s migrant football talent outside the country and introduce it to Zimbabwe National Team Mangers via ZIFA formal channels as well as develop and prepare the scouted talent for national team duty with major international tournaments in mind.
A big role is also played in developing shadow or developmental national teams abroad that will feed in the main national team at Under 16/17 and Under 21/23.
It also important in supporting ZIFA to organise National Team Friendly games and camps in Europe to access good training facilities and enhance exposure of our players.
Through sport we can also support ZIFA to mobilise resources for the National Teams in Zimbabwe using the Diaspora Communities, Diaspora businesses and other opportunities of mobilising revenue e.g. hosting international friendly matches in the UK featuring Zimbabwe.
What is up next for Team Zimbabwe UK?
We want to continue to recruit quality Diaspora players for our national team and at some point hosting an International Football Tournament in Zimbabwe. We also intent to launching several community development projects and hosting Sports Tourism Events with ZTA whilst growing our base in USA/AU Asia/Africa.
We also want to improve our relationship with the English FA, our host association. Our administrative arm Team Zimbabwe UK is affiliated with the FA and insured to cover all our football activities in the UK. We value our relationship and feel that we can use it to unlock opportunities for Zimbabwe Football when need arise.
Final words and recommendations?
Qualifying for the 2022 World Cup by creating a world-class national team using all our talented Zimbabwean footballers scattered across the world is a priority.
Contributing to National Football development programme by supporting ZIFA to build a sustainable grassroots national football Development plan.
BLURB – Our motivation was to promote development of football, our Tourism and Brand Zimbabwe. Our experience was great. The players connected with the home country…They want to come back again.