MANICALAND Juniors of Excellence (MAJESA) executive director, Charles Chave, believes the underdog tag will work to their advantage in the inaugural Marvelous Nakamba Foundation (MNF) Invitational Under-17 tournament which gets underway in Bulawayo tomorrow (Saturday).
During the draw of the tournament held last year before matches were postponed due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, MAJESA was thrown among highly rated Group A rivals that include Highlanders, Njube Spurs and Dynamos.
Group B teams include Chicken Inn, Bulawayo City, Ajax Hotspurs and Hwange.
Chave said all they want is to make a bold statement of the abundance of football talent in the province through their participation in this competition.
Chave said the underdog tag will make them get into the competition without any form of pressure.
“For a long time now, this is something that we have been waiting for and we all know that the draw was held way back. Now that the tournament is upon us, there is no doubt that we just have to give it our best shot.
“We are happy that most of the teams that we will be facing especially in the group stages of the competition will consider us as underdogs, given their experience and prominence. This leaves us with less pressure.
“Be that as it may, we believe the long wait was worth it because we managed to play a number of friendly matches in preparation for the MNF Tournament. We managed to get the exposure and competition we wanted for us to compete favourably in this tournament.
“We will be carrying the hopes of Manicaland as a province and we hope to do justice to that. We just want to show the world that the future Nakambas are here in Manicaland in their numbers. Therefore, our opponents, experienced than us as they are, can only underestimate us at their own peril,” said the soft-spoken Chave.
With Under-17 national team players that include captain, Prosper Padera, goalkeeper, Tafadzwa Magadu, Tashinga ‘Kabala’ Taedza, Norest Mazemo and Keith Musengezi, much should surely be expected from MAJESA.
Preparations for the tournament are already at an advanced stage following the launch of the football extravaganza at an exquisite function held in Harare recently.
The two-day tournament, which will bring together the best local junior football talent in the country, will be played at White City Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
A beneficiary of a sound junior football development policy, Aston Villa midfielder, Nakamba is sponsoring the tournament through his foundation.
The MNF, which is chaired by Nakamba’s father, Antony, also pays fees for over 1 000 school children across Zimbabwe, under its Education Assistance Plan (EAP).
Nakamba, who was groomed at the famed Bantu Rovers Academy in Bulawayo, is giving back to the community though the initiative.
The MNF believes in enriching children, hence the motto: “We believe every child can succeed.”
Nakamba himself is an example of how a sound football developmental system can nurture future footballers.
After graduating from Bantu Academy, Nakamba moved to Nancy of France in 2012.
He impressed at Nancy and earned a contract with Netherland top-flight side, Vitesse in 2014.
Nakamba spent three years at Vitesse and won the KNVB Beker Cup, the equivalent of the English FA Cup.
Belgium giants, Club Brugge snapped the midfielder in 2017 and Nakamba went on to feature in the prestigious UEFA Champions League, where he attracted global attention.
He signed for English Premier League side, Aston Villa in 2019 and is now an integral part of Steven Gerrard’s squad.
Nakamba is the only Zimbabwean player to win major cups in two different European leagues.
He won the Belgian Cup with Club Brugge in 2016 and the KNVB Beker Cup with Dutch side, Vitesse in 2017.
Nakamba’s presence at the MNF Tournament is expected to inspire scores of budding footballers.
Foreign scouts are also expected to grace the event.