Veteran football administrator Nigel Munyati says there is need for Zimbabweans to see sports and the arts as a viable career path because the industries do pay well.
Munyati, who is also a documentary film maker and marketer, told Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor that sportspersons and artists are looked down upon in the country because of a colonial legacy.
The Black Aces Academy founder, however, said he was seeing a shift in attitudes by the younger generations because of globalisation and the emergence of role models.
TN: Nigel Masimba Munyati, I love the names that we have which we do not usually share, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor, Nigel.
NM: Thank you Trevor.
TN: Nigel, you are so many things. Let me see if I get this right.
You are a marketer, you are a communicator, you are a sports person, you are a documentary filmmaker, you are builder of dreams.
Which one of these gives you the biggest kick and excitement?
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NM: Definitely sport. Football is my passion, it wakes me up every day.
I cannot wait for the sun to wake me up and to go out there and to do the things I love doing.
I joke with a lot of my friends, who used to know me in my previous life in the corporate world, and now see me involved in football and they are like Nigel what went wrong?
And I am like, nothing!
NM: I just realised what I was actually doing wrong!
TN: That question. Actually, Nigel what went wrong, should Nigel actually be playing football?
That is a strange question. A reflection of our society when it comes to the importance of sport, talk to me about that Nigel?
NM: In fact, the two things that I love doing tend to be looked down upon by society — sports and the arts.
There is this general feeling that if you play football or you play music or are into film you are what they call “zvemarombe” (loser class); you will never make anything successful out of your life, which I find very tragic because it is only in our parts of the world where that mindset is.
TN: Where does that mindset come from?
NM: I think it comes from our background, our colonial background.
Where you will find that football for example was always considered a lower quality sport.
Rugby was looked at differently, cricket was looked at differently.
So, you will find that even in going to our academic system, most of our schools, though it has changed a bit now, but they used to play football and do athletics and those were the main sports.
In your group ‘A’ or the former white schools, they would play rugby, they would play cricket because they were supposed to be for the upper social status.
So, I think as a result of that football never really got the respect that it needed to.
TN: It has never got the respect.
NM: It has never got it in Zimbabwe.
I think that has affected its development and its evolution to being the greatest revenue earner globally, that football is today.
There is no other sport that generates the kind of revenue that the sport does, or has so many supporters.
You have got millions, if not billions of them.
TN: How do we change that mindset Nigel, because it is not just football, it is sports as a whole.
You know if you say to people I am a sports person they look down upon you, you are not bright enough that is why you ended up playing sports.
If you say you are an actor they say it is because you are not bright enough that is why you are not a doctor or an accountant.
How do we change that mindset? Will we ever be able to change that mindset?
NM: I think so. I think times are changing, people’s mindsets are changing.
There is also exposure to the global environment which is also getting people to wake up to say hey, yes, a doctor used to be one of the highest paid professions, or a lawyer used to be one of the highest paid professions, but nowadays it is David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo.
TN: Jay-Z you know.
NM: Exactly. So, I think the younger generation is going to effect a lot of that change.
Our older generation, which is really more our parents, they were brought up under a different cultural environment.
TN: You know I am finding Nigel, I don’t know if you are finding the same thing, that a lot of my friends’ kids have gone into acting, music.
You know the artsy fartsy kind of things, like sport they are going for trials with Real Madrid and Manchester United.
Our parents would not have allowed us to do that?
Our children are going there. Talk to me about that if that is your experience?
NM: It is. You know running an academy that is what you see.
TN: We will get to that.
NM: My experience has been quite interesting in that I have kids who have come to my academy and said to me Mr Munyati please do not ever let my father know that I come to play soccer because each time he finds out he beats me up.
NM: Some of those boys are playing in the Premier League today, and the fathers are now proud of those sons because they are now earning, they are doing well.
However, before that they would not allow them to do so.
NM: So, it is changing because obviously those products are now influencing other parents.
I am sure even this young man’s father is probably now saying something that is very positive about football to other parents, and maybe encouraging them more, but you still find there are pockets here and there.
What I love more is, we run a Saturday soccer programme, which brings in five to 10-year olds, there is a difference there.
The young parents are so enthusiastic about their children playing sport that they are actually the ones driving the future of sport in Zimbabwe.
TN: Wow, that is good.
NM: Yes, so the future is bright.
The past was you know rather murky, but I have every confidence that things are going to change here.
TN: You know one of the things that attracted me to you, to have you here is precisely that.
That our sports are looked down upon, but you are one of those people, a professional person, a graduate from Penn State University; and you reminded me as I was reading that there are people like Dr Tauya Murewa, a medical doctor, the Flying Doctor playing football, Dr Roderick Muganiri playing football.
I was saying to myself what more do we need to do to have more of ones like these and like you.
People who are qualified as chartered accountants, medical doctors, veterinarians or scientists playing football and all of us respecting what they do?
NM: Well, I am one of those people who is determined to change that mindset. One of the things we are doing now at our academy is that we have 74 boys...
TN: Shall we go there? And this is Black Aces Academy? Is that what it is called?
NM: It is just called The Aces Soccer Academy.
TN: Talk to us about that? First of all, why Aces Academy, why did you start it and what you are doing?
NM: It is a very interesting story.
When I came back from college in the United States in 1981 I was playing soccer in the United States, I was playing for my college team.
TN: Penn State?
TN: First team for that matter.
NM: Yes. We made it to the national championships, lost in the semi-finals but you know that was a fantastic experience that I had been there.
I had always played soccer here, as a kid I was fanatical about soccer.
Let me tell you this.
TN: Yes, talk to us. Absolutely.
NM: Okay. As a kid, I think I was about 10 years old or so, I broke another kid’s leg.
You know we used to play your neighbourhood teams soccer.
I was born in Highfield, grew up in Highfield.
Our team was one of the more successful teams, but I had this unfortunate incident where I went into this tackle with this kid and he broke his leg.
So, for the longest time I had to sit on the side-lines because none of the other teams would play our team.
They would say if Nigel is playing we are not playing you!
NM: So that is how passionate I was with football.
I played in high school, I then played at university.
Now when I came back, my eldest brother Rhodwell was at Black Aces, official, doing the marketing and media.
As soon as I landed in Zimbabwe he said to me you will not play for any team other than Black Aces.
I had actually been a Black Aces fan as a kid as well.
Then it was called Chibuku, I was a Chibuku Shumba fan. I joined Black Aces. I did not play for Black Aces for very long.
I had a very serious problem of appendicitis, my appendix burst I think two to three months after I had returned.
I had peritonitis so I was in the hospital for almost a month where they had to put tubes down my gut to drain the green stuff that was in there.
So when I came out of hospital and recovered from my illness I did not really have the same drive or enthusiasm to play again because it takes you such a long time to recover and the season is coming to an end.
TN: The training.
NM: Here I was a qualified food scientist who had just come to Zimbabwe.
I then decided to just focus on my professional and academic career.
TN: So, if this had not happened you wanted to be a professional football player?
NM: If it had been possible I would have become a professional football player you know.
NM: Unfortunately, it was terminated early.
It also gave me the opportunity to look at the other side of football, the administrative side of football because I think that is where the biggest problem is.
One of my memorable negative experiments with football was where we were playing SuperSonics in Bulawayo, and so we were told we would take a bus from Machipisa Shopping Centre.
The bus would come and pick us up and we would then travel to Bulawayo.
I had my own car, I actually had my girlfriend take my car back home because you know we were now waiting for the bus.
We were supposed to have gotten onto the bus around 3pm, 3pm came nothing and 5pm came, still nothing.
Around 6pm was when one of the officials was like the bus is not there anymore and we would have to take a typical chicken bus kind of thing.
You know this is the kind of bus that would stop in Norton, stop in Chegutu and you have people selling eggs.
TN: You are going to a football match?
NM: You are going to a football match you know. We get to Kwekwe now and it is like 9pm.
So they said it was too late to continue so we had to put up in some hotel in Kwekwe.
The club officials managed to get two rooms for us.
So we had four beds for the whole team.
So you can imagine four of us sharing one bed, two on one end and that kind of thing.
This is a young man who has just come back from America where sometimes when we travelled to matches we would fly.
TN: You would have your own bedroom?
NM: Yeah. We got to Bulawayo around 1pm the next day.
Even then we did not have a bus to take us from the rank to the stadium.
We had to get a kombi that took us to the stadium.
- “In Conversation With Trevor” is a weekly show broadcast on YouTube.com//InConversationWithTrevor. The conversations are to you by Heart and Soul Broadcasting Services