Veteran Zimbabwean midfielder Elasto Kapowezha believes in education, he believes that Africa has better soccer talent than Europe, and he believes passionately in setting goals and doing one’s best to attain them.
“I think choosing to play soccer wasn’t so much about making a choice but rather discovering within myself that I had a talent, and automatically dreams of playing professional soccer developed. I put in everything possible to pursue those dreams because I realised that talent alone would not take me further,” says the soccer star who began playing soccer at the age of six on the dusty streets of Karoi, Zimbabwe.
After a 17-year career, the 38-year-old has retired from playing the game and is currently the football manager at Football Club Aziz Kara (FCAK), a Johannesburg-based football club that plays in the national first division.
As a successful Unisa student Kapowezha believes that education is one of the most important tools for a successful life. And proving that he is not all talk and no show, Kapowezha will this year begin study towards a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Marketing. He already holds a Diploma in Sports Management, and a Certificate in Business Management – both of which he obtained from Unisa.
“I am hoping to rise up the ranks of football administration as I strongly believe that soccer administration is better off in the hands of those who have played the sport rather than academics who only know the theory and not the practical. I want to know both, that is why I am studying.
“It is important for me to further my education because of my ambition of becoming one of the top soccer administrators in the world. I want to empower myself so that I contribute positively to the game of soccer. I see myself occupying a high position in FIFA and helping develop the game of football – that is my ultimate dream. I also would like to inspire a lot of soccer players to take education seriously by setting a good example.”
And Kapowezha is well on his way to realising his dreams. Having started professional soccer in 1994 at Zimbabwean club, Darryn T, he went on to play for several clubs during his career. In South Africa, he played for Amazulu Football Club, a team he captained in 1999. He then played for Ria Stars in 2000 and later moved to BIDVest Wits and eventually to FCAK where he spent six years as the captain. Before coming to South Africa, he had a short stint in Poland where he played for one of the top sides, Lech Poznan, in 1996.
“I enjoy this sport so much because it has been everything to me. I am where I am today because of it. Soccer is not only a sport that everyone understands but it brings people together from all walks of life. It brings joy to the masses. The highlight of my career was when I became top joint goal scorer in Africa during the Olympic qualifiers campaign. I shared this title with Nigerian soccer player, Nwankwo Kanu.”
Speaking on the importance of the youth seizing the educational opportunities available to them, Kapowezha says: “Education is the foundation for everything in life whether you play sport or not. Education does not help you only when you need employment but it makes you a whole person, lacking nothing. It equips you to be a better citizen, a dignified human being. You can handle life issues better if you are educated whether its relationships or general self-management. Those in the sporting career need education for obvious reasons, their careers are short – they need something to fall back on once they are done playing. This has been a major problem with our former pro soccer players. Once done playing they find themselves begging in the streets because there is nothing they are qualified to do. Even to get a coaching certificate requires one to be educated. In today’s society education is a must.”
With AFCON 2013 currently underway, Kapowezha shares his opinion on the standard of South African and African soccer. He lists lack of development, administration wrangles, poor excuses and players’ mental weakness as issues affecting South African soccer.
South Africa, he says, needs a strong school soccer system starting from primary school level, and SAFA should train all former pro soccer players as coaches and place them in schools where they can be used positively.
In terms of administration, Kapowezha says while the PSL has done tremendously well when it comes to organisation, the same cannot be said of the mother body SAFA; and the “love/hate relationship between the PSL and SAFA does not help the development of soccer in this country”.
“We also need to live in the present. The national team is forever building a team for the future. South Africa needs to realise that they need to live for today. For me it has become an excuse to always say we are building for future. South African players also generally lack the mental strength of players who, for example, come from west and north Africa.
“Even the success of the PSL has also some negative effect on the ambitions of local players wanting to compete in the tough European leagues. They would rather get a good salary here at home than fight for positions in Europe. We have recently witnessed the return of many South African players from Europe because the PSL is offering good salaries but not the same standard of soccer as Europe.”
In Africa, Kapowezha says the problem is largely administration, and lack of funds and infrastructure. “Many African countries are battling with bread-and-butter issues, so for them soccer is a luxury they cannot afford. There is better talent on the continent of Africa than Europe, but the latter is better organised and has world-class infrastructure to develop talent. Africa is hugely unstable politically and socially, and this impacts heavily on the sport of soccer. When it comes to world tournaments Africa is inadequately prepared despite the array of very good soccer players at its disposal.”
Having represented his country at all levels playing a sport he is so passionate about, the father of three advises Unisa students that the world is theirs for the taking. “I say go out there and explore the world of opportunities. It is a borderless world we live in, which makes it good and bad: good because there are now countless opportunities all over, and bad because you are now competing with more people for those opportunities. Always stay ahead of the pack.”
*Written by Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester