Retired Warriors goal poacher Wilfred Mugeyi believes a more structured approach towards junior football development should be spearheaded by clubs playing in the Zimbabwe top-flight league.
Discussions around the nature of a proper and more effective football development policy in Zimbabwe have taken centre-stage among fans and other local stakeholders of the sport since the country was banned from all international activities by Fifa.
Mugeyi — a lethal striker who rose to prominence while playing for Black Aces in Zimbabwe during a successful career that also took him to South African clubs Bush Bucks and Ajax Cape Town as well as to Israel and China where he played for Maccabi Haifa and Shenyang Haishi respectively — cited talented players who rose to stardom during his era as evidence of what a meaningful development policy can yield.
Known as “Silver Fox” among his supporters who enjoyed watching him stealing possession without being noticed by defenders, Mugeyi was also an effective gunman for the Warriors during his heyday.
Perhaps his best performance — when measuring the number of goals scored — was at Bush Bucks, a club he joined in 1993.
It was at this club that Mugeyi illuminated the South African topflight by scoring 23 goals during the 1996/97 season — an achievement that saw him scooping the Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year as well as the Top Goal Scorer of the Season awards.
It bothers the retired striker that Zimbabwe has not been producing talented players in the mould of Peter Ndlovu, Vitalis Takawira and many others who left an indelible mark during his era.
He said the answer to some of these questions lies in football academies and more active junior teams at club level.
“My opinion is that it starts from the academies. We have to groom the youngsters. We have not been doing this and this is where the problem is,” said Mugeyi.
“If you do not have a youth academy as a coach and find a player who is 26 years old and suddenly think you can train them to score, you will have a problem.”
He called for a radical shift, back to the way junior football development was pursued during the 1980s.
“During our time, we had the likes of Vitalis Takawira, Agent Sawu, Peter and Adam Ndlovu and many more. All these players came through the junior ranks of Dynamos, Highlanders and the other dominant clubs of that era such as Zimbabwe Saints,” he said.
“I remember very well that if Dynamos was playing against Caps United you would have junior teams of those two clubs playing against each other as curtain raisers.
“So if the main match starts at three o’clock in the afternoon, supporters arriving at the stadium at half past one would watch the junior teams playing against each other.
“Clubs would scout for young players at schools. We do not have that system anymore and if we are able to revive such a purposeful approach towards football development, we will be laying the proper foundations for a breakthrough.”