20 for 20 with Kudzai Chitima

Welcome to 2020, Sports Hype fans. We just want to thank you for the opportunities and support you have given us over the past six months.

This year we aim to be bigger and better, our 20 for 20 feature will look to unearth some unsung heroes as we paint our canvas this year. We are also hoping to land an international sports star or two. We also will be looking forward to using the feature to educate you the readers about the business of sports.

Today we introduce you to the only accredited Zimbabwean football scout in Zimbabwe, Mr Kudzai Chitima.

1 PM: Tell me about your studies with Sports Management Worldwide.

KC: Well, I enrolled for Soccer Management and Scouting with SMWW in 2017 and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The course unleashed the zeal and passion I never thought I had. Being mentored by USA’s Scouting gurus like Matt Martin, MLS ex Portland Timbers Domestic scout, now Director at The Soccer Syndicate and John Print a FIFA certified Agent are highlights. I learned club management, the business of soccer, scouting techniques, player evaluations, scouting reports, statistical analysis, international transfers.

2 PM: Tell us about EasyVest Sport Management

KC: It is a blueprint of what I envision in a few years to come. I feel there is need for an agency that provides a 360 degree holistic approach to talent. That is start from grassroots talent Scouting, development, management up to post career period. This is what EasyVest will aim to achieve, because a player is the most important asset in football business therefore needs to be treated as such.

3 PM: Tell the world about Kudzai Chitima.

KC: I’m 31 years old, born in a family of 6. I did Applied Chemical Technology in college and I work for the government. I am married to Patricia, with one child named Tayana.

4 PM: Where did your relationship with sports start?

KC: The relationship with sport started in 1999, when I was grade seven and was surprisingly a good volleyball player. I was so short, I still am, but could jump so high. I switched to football in 2003 after the school I was attending bought a new kit for soccer team only (laughs).

5 PM: Which sports did you play in your youth?

KC: Like I said, it was volleyball 1999-2003 then soccer 2003-2012. Was so good that I was selected for the Mash West National Youth Games. In college football, I won the Sportsman of the Year 2010, 6 gold medals, 2 regional representations, winning 1 gold.

6 PM: How did you develop the love for scouting and why didnt you venture into management, seeing as the two are intertwined?

KC: Well, I took stock of my successful little career I had had, and realized that the only reason I had not played professionally is because of lack of talent identification at a tender age. I was a good talent wasted, therefore I vowed to fight for those disadvantaged kids like me to get exposure at the earliest possible time so that they can be nurtured and realise their dreams.
On Management, I can only say watch the space bro, let’s revisit this question again in June.

7 PM: Who do you look up to in the football scouting circles internationally and abroad?

KC: The key principles of scouts are that they should be strategic, rational and systematic, and I’m inspired by Michael Edwards(Liverpool S.D), Monchi (Sevilla) & Txiki Berigistain(Man City)
Special mention goes to Ellen Chiwenga, the only female African FIFA Match Agent in the world – she makes me dream.

8 PM: You have worked with some of the top football teams in Zimbabwe including the Warriors. Care to share your experiences and elaborate on the roles you played?

KC: It was such a great experience to have worked with top ZPSL clubs that play CAF CL and Confederations Cup. It started when I did tactical scouting /opposition analysis for FC Platinum when they first won the league. I remember it was vs Primeiro De Agosto of Angola. I sent it to coach Norman Mapeza, whom I had never met, and you know how it is, this is something new and obviously, at first it’s difficult to embrace. They lost 4-0, and bowed out. The next campaign I did another piece, until it was now routine and that’s how we got close with coach Norman Mapeza. Last year, the Warriors team manager approached me to perform opposition analysis of the teams in our group at AFCON. Unfortunately or fortunately, the analysis came exactly as I had predicted and we bowed out. I have also done the same for Triangle in the CAF Confederations Cup.

Look my brother, tactical scouting does not guarantee you a result, but it certainly guarantees you improvement. And it works well if the coach takes note of every detail, defensive orientation, attacking transition, low block, spaces between the lines etc.

On the Talent scouting part, I have done scouting of players of different age groups and recommend them for national team coaches, especially U20 and U23. Have tracked players and kept a database of all those potential national team players up to U23. The funny part about the whole thing is, it’s all VOLUNTARY. No contract with anyone. I’m a servant of the beautiful game

9 PM: How do you know when you have found a star?

KC: If a player is constantly doing something different, but right. Its all about the two As – Ability and Attitude. He/she has to have both in good measure and a willingness to learn, the combination is usually the difference between a professional player and a boozer.

10 PM: Which position if any is easy to scout talent for?

KC: No position is easy, because each position is unique and requires a player with a particular set of skills. For example, a midfielder – can he pick a forward pass? Winger – can he dribble past a player? Defender–does he /she stand up and intercept rather than tackle, etc.

11 PM: Take me through your process from attending a match/trials to identifying a player and helping him get signed.

KC: Usually, I take a seat before the match starts, when the teams are doing warm ups, because it is important to check the body language of players even before the game starts.
I then scout for those doing the right things, with emphasis on the psychological, technical, social aspects. I write scout reports and scout the potential again two or more times in different scenarios,even training sessions. If they can be convinced, I approach the coaches and if below 18 years old, the parents/guardian and finally connect the two clubs for contract negotiations.

12 PM: Who are some of the notable footballers that you scouted?

KC: This is a difficult question since I am a freelance scout. I do Scouting wherever, meaning I can see potential in a player, who is attached therefore has no power to do anything about it, but remains in my database. Some of these players are those that I recommend to the U20, U23 national team coaches e.g Martin Mapisa, Tatenda Tavengwa, Emmanuel Jalai, Issa Ali, Marvelous chigumira, Rafael Pitisi, Devine Mhindirira, Emmanuel Zinyama, Mandlenkosi Mlilo(all ZPSL) to mention a few , and many unheralded names who just need a platform to showcase their talent.
I also follow and scout young foreign based players like Tivonge Rushesha, Lee Ndlovu, Jordan Zemura, Malachi Napa etc

13 PM: How easy is it to remove emotions from some of your scouting assignments? I am sure there is a difficulty to stay objective, your thoughts?

KC: Well, it is difficult to remove emotions because as you know, football is an emotional game by nature. But now, in scouting, there is no room for sentiment, as a scout one has to make sure you remain calm, passive and rational because there is a lot at stake literally.

14PM: What’s your one top tip for someone who would like to become a football scout?

KC: You have possess analytical skills and an ability to pay close attention to detail, because it’s the smallest details that usually determines a match or differentiate one player out of many players.

15PM: In your opinion can Zimbabwe produce a crop of players who can ever challenge for the AFCON title? If so what needs to be done to nurture a golden generation?

KC: Yes we can, but this requires a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, we need to have a sound talent identification and development system in place from the grassroots. There should be a collective effort from the Zimbabwean government, ZIFA, ZPSL and the corporates to help create partnerships and exchange programs with top European clubs so that we export our talent to better facilities at a tender age. This increases the talent pool from which the national selectors select national team players at all levels. An initiative such as this one will breed more competition for our talent, which means exposure for them and a conveyor belt of higher quality players. The partnerships will include also coaches and administrators, because a nation can have the best talent in the world, but without sound administrators and administration along with intellectual technical benches, usually remain average to poor.

16PM: If you were to do an Zimbabwe Warriors all-time XI, who would you pick?

KC: I’m only three-plus decades old, and only started watching football in the late 90d so my all-time eleven will be from then to date. No disrespect to our yesteryear greats like Shaya, Muparutsa, Chunga, etc but I didn’t watch them play and I would love to be fair and honest.

GK- Energy Murambadoro
RB – Edelbert Dinha
LB- Cephas Chimedza
CB- Dumisani Mpofu
CB- Method Mwanjali
DM- Esrom Nyandoro
DM-Tinashe Nengomasha
AM- Ronald Gidiza Sibanda
RM- Knowledge Msona
LW – Khama Billiart
ST – Peter Ndlovu

17PM: Talk to me about the women’s game in Zimbabwe. What are your thoughts on it, how can it improve and just how much talent is in that pool?

KC: My brother, we have amazing talented girls and ladies in Zimbabwe. The performances of the Mighty and Young Warriors in recent years is testament to that. The women’s game has lots of room for improvement, but I feel it is let down by the administration. There is no sound women junior structures, the National Women’s League has little or no sponsorship so it defeats the whole purpose.
I think we should start by improving visibility and appeal of the women brand. This can be done by changing the times and venues of their league games to say curtain raisers of the men’s game. More support, more brand visibility, more interest from players and corporate world and we are set.

18PM: So I am aware of the existence of some quality football academies in Zimbabwe, but am I right in saying that for some time the high schools were a breeding ground for talent. The likes of Lord Malvern, Pamushana, Masvingo Christian, Mzilikazi to name a few. What is the current state of Zimbabwe’s once vibrant high school soccer scene?

KC: I feel the state has deteriorated the past few years, save for this past year when the NASH U17 got silver at the Copa Coca-Cola tournament.
In fact, there still remains talent in high schools, but they need to be detected and brought to clubs for further development as soon as they are spotted. If any part of the process is skipped, the talent is thrown into the drain, and the result is a massive gap that will take years to cover.

19PM: There has been an increased number of youth players breaking into first team’s abroad and making a name for themselves. Will we ever see such a trend in Africa? Also, why do you think it’s harder for African youths to get their careers going while they are still young?

KC: : I think it’s all to do with our talent identification systems. Talent identification is a process which starts with Detection – Identification – Development – Selection.
The more we delay to identify the talent at a tender age, the less the probability that they will develop to play professionally at a young age as you allude to. Look at what happens in Europe, a player goes to the academy at five or six, while in Africa a player goes at twelve or thirteen, close to double the age. Also, I think age cheating in Africa also contributes to the failure to get African youth players selected abroad. Due to lack of early development, a player looks to compensate for the lost time by reducing his/her age hence affecting performance and other critical things.

I’m in consultation with a South African private company that is working to develop systems to eradicate age cheating and we are looking to bring in other benefits to African football. Once we are done, I will share more details and I’m convinced this will be a game-changer on age cheating in Zimbabwe, SADC and hopefully the greater Africa.

20PM: Can you name at least five players to watch out for in the coming years in Zimbabwean football?

KC: Man oh man, there are quite a number of them. I think it would be fair to categorize them into two, that is, local and foreign-based. Fair?

LOCAL
. Rafael Pitisi (GK)
. Tatenda Tavengwa (D. midfielder)
. Juan Mutudza (A. Midfielder)
. Andrew Mbeba (defender)
. Marcus Mapunhure (LB)

FOREIGN
. Tivonge Rushesha (defender)
. Prince Dube (Striker)
. Martin Mapisa (GK)
. Malachi Napa (Striker)
. Admiral Muskwe (striker)

Philani Mukwakwami

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Sports are a hobby horse of mine, what happens in-between the lines is just as thrilling as what happens outside of them.