By Langton Nyakwenda
They may neither have the privilege to watch him on television nor access fresh football news given their circumstances, but people in this part of the country have every reason to be proud.
Nested about 35km outside Hwange town, Nekatambe is among the most remote areas in Matabeleland North.
For most people in the area, where crop farming is not viable owing to arid conditions, cattle ranching is a gateway to a better life.
Primary school learners as young as six walk about 10 kilometres to and from school.
However, people in Nekatambe and nearby villages can still afford a smile. The only Southern African player in the English Premier League today traces his roots to this rural community.
Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, who is likely to make it into the Match Day squad when the Birmingham outfit visit Fulham tomorrow night, did part of his primary education at Dinde, a modest school that often struggles to buy decent furniture and learning equipment.
The Sunday Mail Sport was in Hwange last week and felt obliged to try and dig for information about Nakamba’s formative years.
After a brief tour of Dinde Primary School, which has an enrolment of 371 pupils, we got in touch with Nakamba’s former classmate, Marvolence Ncube.
The name sounds more like Marvelous!
“Yes, indeed. One thing I remember most is that we had names that sounded similar. Sometimes our teacher confused our names,” revealed Ncube, who is now a mother of two.
“Otherwise Marvelous was a quiet guy.
“Marvelous wasn’t that bright. He was an average pupil who sometimes reported being late for school and got punished for that.
“But he loved football and I remember he was good, although we never thought he would go this far.
“We were actually surprised to hear on radio that Marvelous is now playing in Europe. I do not know where exactly he is playing, but I know he’s doing a lot to help this community.
“We never thought a person from this remote area would rise to these levels. I pray that God continues to bless him because he has helped a lot of people in this ward.” Nakamba, through the Marvelous Nakamba Foundation, now pays school fees for 90 learners at Dinde Primary School and plans to do more for the school.
“I am not authorised to speak to the Press, but it is true the boy is doing a lot for the school,” Dinde Primary School headmistress, Sithabile Viki, said.
According to Pangani Ncube, a member of the School Development Committee, learners pay $100 per term.
“A number of pupils are benefiting from Nakamba’s foundation. Some have heard about Nakamba, while others know him as a boy who once lived in this area when he was growing up,” he said.
“Nakamba was not that bright, but he is a solid example of how sport can transform someone. He is a living testimony of how football can drag someone out of poverty.”
The Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) are reportedly engaging Nakamba with a view to appointing him ambassador for Hwange National Park, the country’s biggest natural reserve.
“At the moment, it’s not professional to talk much about that issue because nothing is concrete as yet,” ZimParks public relations manager Tinashe Farawo said.
“However, if all goes well and we agree, then Nakamba would be a perfect candidate for that post given his background.
“He is someone who has roots in Hwange and given his profile, he fits well into the idea,” Farawo said.
Nakamba spent part of his childhood in Hwange before his parents, Antony and Charity, moved to Bulawayo, where they are now proud owners of a house in the affluent Sunninghill suburb.
Marvelous’ father is a former employee of Hwange Colliery Company and played for the then Wankie Football Club as a goalkeeper.
The Aston Villa central midfielder was born in a Hwange compound known as Madumavisa Number Two.
He was later transferred to rural Dinde for his primary school education as the family faced financial challenges.
Nakamba has not forgotten his roots and is ploughing back into the community, with almost 5 000 pupils from four provinces now benefiting from his foundation. “There are beneficiaries (pupils) in Hwange, Bulawayo, Gweru and Harare,” said Brian Moyo, a board member at the foundation.
“In Harare, we are helping pupils at Mabvuku High and Gwinyai Primary School in Mbare. We intend to expand to other remote and vulnerable parts of the country like Chimanimani, where Cyclone Idai affected people.
“The foundation is going to provide Covid-19 PPEs as part of our efforts to fight against the deadly virus,” said Moyo. The Sunday Mail