Zimbabwean Fungai Madziwa shares from the heart about his journey from being a sports lover to becoming passionate about sports ministry
When I reflect upon the journey of life, the humble beginnings from which I came and the struggles I came across up to where I am this day, I see the mighty hand of the living God.
Born as Fungai W Madziwa on the March 10 1976 in rural Rusape — then Lesapi — in Manicaland, Zimbabwe, I grew up in a family full of siblings. We were eight in total with only two sisters. Growing up things were not easy but it got worse when my father died in 1981 and our mother had to carry on her shoulders the full burden of sending us all to school and making sure we got something to eat
Going to the fields and herding cattle was the order of the day while growing up. This lifestyle of mine changed when I was in Grade 5 when fortune smiled on me and I was moved to the city to complete my education. Although I left the village at that young age, I still had in me all the teachings and manners and good behaviour which the elders taught us and I believe it is those teachings which moulded and shaped my character.
Sport has always been my thing — from the tender age of five playing street soccer until I played for teams which competed in the First Division. I was also a professional cyclist at the peak of my sporting career which spanned from 200 to 2008.
At one point I owned a soccer academy called Young Leopards. The academy consisted of young boys between the ages of 7 and 14. I singlehandedly sponsored my academy from my paltry earnings. This was due to my love for sport and my love for the young ones — seeing them growing and fulfilling their dreams. My sponsorship of Young Leopards came to an end when a well-wisher from the community was impressed by the good job we were doing and decided to come in. The club name was eventually changed by the sponsor to Magabro.
The team did well and got promoted to the Second Division and today we boast of nurturing big names who are now playing competitive soccer. These include Kingstone Nkhatha who went on to play for several clubs, in the Absa Premier League, including Kaizer Chiefs and Supersport United.
When the sponsor left the country things fell apart and we went back to where we were before. I reverted back to my Young leopards. A friend, who by then was playing soccer in Poland, Dickson Choto, decided that we start a team that he would sponsor and asked me to be the team manager — an offer that I received with both hands. This gave birth to DC Academy which became a brand name in Zimbabwean football.
We started the team in 2006, bought a Second Division franchise two years later, and got promoted into the First Division that same year. We had to spend five years in the First Division. During that period, we managed to produce a host of players who are now scattered around many premier league teams in Zimbabwe and beyond. This is where the likes of Denver Mukamba who played for Dynamos in Zimbabwe and Bidvest Wits and Jomo Cosmos in South Africa among other clubs and Charlton Mashumba who is currently at Polokwane City in South Africa came from.
Other key sports achievements include introducing girls’ soccer games at a local school Budiriro 4 Primary School where I was doing my teaching practice. This helped to nurture the rise of Zimbabwe Girls soccer players Eunice Chibanda Zimbabwean Mighty warrior’s defender and Immaculate Msipa Zimbabwean Mighty Warriors attacker who recently got a contract to play for a second division club in Italy, among other players.
Through all my work with young children and teens I came to realise there is a gap that needs to be filled in many of their lives — one that I believe is the source of most of the troubles they find themselves in. Most of the children are fatherless. Sadly, for some it’s not that the parents are not there, but they don’t have time for their kids due to reasons like pressure of work and the generation gap. Apart from training successful athletes I also work with teens in doing programmes like sports ministry, retelling Godly Play stories and habitudes lessons which is about habits and attitudes.
I have also been teaching in both primary schools and high schools for over 17 years. Currently I teach physical education and sports. I am the sports director at Bernard Mizeki College in Marondera, Zimbabwe.
I hold a degree in sport science and coaching from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Zimbabwe; a diploma in sports coaching and management from Gateway Christian College and a diploma in teaching and have several coaching certificates in sports like swimming, tennis, rugby and soccer. I am also the vice chairperson of the Anglican Diocese of Harare and I arranged a number of sporting activities for the diocese especially through junior church teacher training programmes. At national level I am the junior church organising secretary. I have had the privilege to do training workshops for the province which includes countries like Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
My active involvement in children’s ministry began one day around 2010 when I was in the church and the priest was preaching about people who sit on their talents instead of using them for the benefit of everyone. Seated in the congregation I told myself that it was high time I began to get involved with children’s ministry and that day when the children went out for their lessons I followed and joined them. I could tell that the teachers that were there were very happy about my coming in. It was not long before I realised why, as they left everything on my shoulders and then left for good. I believe that marked my God-sent mission as since then, I never looked back.
With the help of our priest. Reverend William Nyapokoto and the new teachers that joined the children’s ministry, we managed to grow the junior church at our parish St Faith Budiriro to greater heights and can boast we have one of the best junior church schools in our diocese.That helped me to get noticed by the church administration and congregants and subsequently I got recommended for several trainings, including Godly Play Story Telling for which I received the training from international trainer and story teller Joan Trudy in Benoni, South Africa and habitudes which I got trained by Growing Leaders teams from the USA at a workshop in Zambia.
At school I worked with a colleague who was involved in sports ministry and when I attended one of his lessons, I got so excited and again never looked back. I saw it as a wonderful tool to use with mainly the teens group, who are people with lots of energy that needs to be taken care of . Using it at church positively changed the behaviours of most of the teens.
Sport became a tool to lure the young boys and girls, hence the numbers grew. A lot of sacrifice — both financial and time — was made. I had to source materials to use and even forego some of my routines to create time to spend with the teens. Parents began to notice positive behavioural changes and our priest also became so grateful about the work I was doing with my team — so much that we became close friends. In fact, he managed to turn me into a better Christian and encouraged me to start doing Bible studies. which I had started about a year ago but unfortunately I could not afford to continue but I know with God’s grace I will finish the programme.
I hope to become a junior pastor in the not-so-distant future. At the moment I am a sub-deacon responsible for helping the incumbent with conducting church services and conducting services in his absence. At school I also head the guidance and counselling department.
One of the things that made me want to marry sports and ministry is the fact that I realised that during all the years I was working with different athletes. the main focus was on producing talented athletes but unfortunately we never considered working on their characters. At the end of the day we managed to produce perfect athletes with flawed characters. Their skill took them to greater heights but their character always brought them down.
Even at school, my main drive is now on getting the character correct as we groom our athletes. That has made me very unpopular with many of our high school boys but that never dampened my spirit; instead, it gave me more strength to do what is correct. I managed to convince the school head that even if we lose games but adhere to sports ethics it is more honourable than to try to score some cheap victories through dishonourable means. The lesson is that life should be lived in compartments.
Today I am happy that the sports department is transformed into one that is God fearing and everything is done the right way. We are now able to produce whole athletes, thanks to sport ministry lessons that we constantly share with our athletes as we do our training.
At every half an opportunity I make sure I sell the idea of sports ministry. I have done a number of workshops in and out of Zimbabwe and the idea has been appreciated a lot by the participants. Sadly, though a follow up to such workshops indicates that the majority of those we equip just go and do nothing. Partially I think it’s due to lack of equipment but I think chiefly it has to do with a lack of sports interest. I have always encouraged teachers to start with sports of interest.
In conclusion, sports has the power to bring people together more than anything in the whole world — hence the use of sports ministry as a tool to minister is a great opportunity to nurture our young generation. They have the energy to run around and if their energy is not used wisely it might find its way to doing things that do not please God. My daily prayer is to see the ministry continue to grow.