In 1999 World Wide Scholarship director Munya Maraire was living his dream as an athlete playing American football at Penn State University.
Fast forward 13 years to today after he left the university, Maraire is lying in bed at Johannesburg General Hospital without his left arm.
The former sprinter was involved in a tragic accident at 7am in Johannesburg a fortnight ago as he headed for Pretoria, having travelled overnight.
And within minutes of arrival at the hospital, he had to be amputated.
Worse still, Maraire is now in dire need of financial help to cater for medical bills as well as move into a private hospital.
While an online campaign has been launched to raise $7 500, his colleague Anthony Hobwana said it was not clear how much was needed as Maraire is still admitted in hospital for rehabilitation.
Speaking from Johannesburg, Hobwana said Maraire has remained positive to pursue his WWS dream despite awakening to the pain of losing an arm in the crash.
“We are not yet sure how much is required at the moment as there is rehabilitation and after care that need to be covered. We would have loved him to be in a private hospital, but it means more expenses, so we are just looking at options,” Hobwana said.
Hobwana said during that fateful week Maraire had been planning to send athletes to Spain.
However, Maraire’s dealings in sending athletes abroad have not gone without controversy.
In 2011 a Harare couple, which refused to be named, said it had paid US$ 1 900 in administration fees and their son was awarded a 50 percent scholarship. They had to pay outstanding fees of $11 000 to WWS for their son to be admitted to Lindonwood College in the US.
The student’s electronic card was, however, withdrawn, leaving him with no access to residence, dining and library facilities as the fees had not been remitted. Maraire laid the blame on WWS’s partners in the US for the confusion that had taken place.
In 2012 Maraire also had a brush with the law after he was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit assault against a rival athletics coach.
However, the case was withdrawn following an out-of-court settlement.
But the dream to arrange scholarships for promising athletes to study abroad began while Maraire was still a young sprinter himself.
In his profile on the World Wide Scholarship website, Maraire said he was the best athlete and rugby player then in Zimbabwe, but felt hard done when no scouts or coaches helped him attain a scholarship.
“Yet when I browsed the Internet, I realised that so many people would get scholarships with worse results than I had in the sprints. In addition to this, I had a burning desire to play American Football and the closest to it was rugby or my favourite computer game John Madden Football,” Maraire said.
Taking advantage of his sister Tricia, who was in the US Airforce, Maraire went overseas to repeat his last year of high school in the States.
“From hot Zimbabwe I went to live for one year pursuing my dream in Alaska! Yes, Alaska, Fairbanks to be exact. It was an abomination at the time, but what I realised was that even in the remotest parts of America there are scouts looking for and carving opportunities for deserving athletes. In the back of my mind my spirit cried out “this was needed in Africa!” added Maraire.
“After training in weather conditions I thought would have killed any sane person I won the Alaska state Championships in the 200m (22.08s) and 400m (48.37s) competitions and was ranked in the top 20 in the USA. I was also the top athlete in Alaska, alongside NBA basketball star Carlos Boozer, who is now playing for Chicago Bulls.
“Through these achievements, I was awarded over 25 scholarship opportunities all over the USA and I had to make the best choice for my future after sports. I chose Penn State University,” wrote Maraire on his website.
After signing on as a track athlete on scholarship at Penn University, Maraire gathered his guts and made a request to the late legendary American Football player and coach, Joe Paterno, to be tried in the university team.
“He then organised a try-out for the team the following week; I made the team as the fastest player and ended up being one of the most celebrated sport persons in athletics and American football at the university.
“I then went on to become one of the first Zimbabwean athletes in history to try out for the NFL and was shortlisted by the Dallas Cowboys.
“Though this dream did not manifest, it did well in creating a network of very influential people backing all the things we and my current organisation WWS are doing in Africa,” said Maraire.
In January 2002, WWS was born and Maraire began scouting for talent in football, athletics, baseball, hockey and water polo, linking athletes for scholarships abroad.
In January this year, WWS organised the Nike Africa Soccer Trials in Johannesburg, South Africa, where European scouts selected 30 youngsters for different opportunities abroad.
While WWS’s local offices have been closed in the last three months, its doors in Zambia and South Africa have seen athletes being linked for scholarships to countries like Spain and Finland.
As Maraire lies in hospital, he eagerly awaits the arrival of his family who were mourning his grandmother in Jamaica last week. The Sunday Mail