BULAWAYO – Former footballer Collen Tonderai Nyambiya must have had himself in mind when he gave his football project the name Young Flying Stars Soccer Academy.
For Nyambiya was himself a flying forward whose pace troubled many a defender during his heyday when he was turning out for Ziscosteel, Railstars, Highlanders and Shabanie Mine.
HEYDAY: Collen Nyambiya shields the ball away from AmaZulu defender Vorster Chitema during a league match at Barbourfields Stadium back in 2005.
Born on October 20, 1978 in Victoria Falls, Nyambiya came to live in Bulawayo in 1981 and grew up at Llewellyn Barracks where his father worked as a soldier.
It was at Llewellyn – later changed to Imbizo – that his love for the game of football was honed while playing street football.
He went on to play for the Imbizo Primary School senior team when he was still in Grade Six and helped the team win the Army Schools Soccer Competition that was played in Masvingo in 1989.
Nyambiya was nearly lost to football after enrolling at Luveve High School for his secondary education after deciding to concentrate on playing minority sport and music.
It was his former school mate at Imbizo, Clayton Masina, who coerced him into turning out for the school team but the music bug had bitten him too deeply and he eventually stuck to music and only played soccer during school holidays when he went back home to Imbizo.
“At Imbizo we had very good sporting facilities and as a result I can play various sports that include tennis, basketball, volleyball and boxing.
“So after playing a few matches for the school soccer team I became disillusioned with the sport because it was dominated by day scholars and I was a boarder. So I switched to tennis and I was so good that Noel Wadawu (who was a top ranked junior tennis player at that time) would regularly come and practice with me at Luveve High,” Nyambiya says.
He added that at Luveve High he was known for his music prowess as he was part of the school choir.
“I got so interested in music so much that I would play the Marimba during assembly every Monday and Friday.
“When I was Form Four in 1994 I was part of the school choir that won the new national anthem competition and we sung the Ndebele version at the then Sheraton Hotel in Harare and you can imagine how surprised my former school mates were when I started making waves on the football field,” Nyambiya says.
After finishing his ‘O’ Levels, Nyambiya joined ZRP Stops Juniors before moving to Ziscosteel after being recommended to the then Ziscosteel coach Benedict Moyo by Bongani Mafu.
He joined Zisco when he was 18 years old in 1997 and was given an apprenticeship to train as a fitter and turner because of his good grades at O’Level.
The steelmakers were playing in the first division at that time and Nyambiya played alongside other youngsters who included the likes of Misheck Ziko, Patrick Mandizha and seasoned players like Chewe Mulenga, Mandla Mpofu and Luke Petros.
He was not a regular in his first season but Moyo would make sure that he got game time and he played his part in helping the team return to the top flight.
Nyambiya was not able to feature prominently in the top flight as he had to attend college as part of his apprentice studies and only got involved towards the end of the season when the team was already fighting relegation.
In 1999 Ziscosteel were back in the first division and Nyambiya was their top goal scorer with 26 goals to his credit and this feat attracted the attention of Railstars who had already signed his former team mates Mulenga, Admire Zingwe and Mpofu.
So Nyambiya packed his bags and relocated to Bulawayo in the year 2000 after being signed for $24 000 Zim dollars.
At Njanji he linked up with other youngsters who included the likes of Vusa Tshabalala, Joseph Ngwenya, Ndodana Sibanda and Njabulo Ncube, who were vying for jerseys with seasoned players like Master Masiku, Charles Chilufya, Anderson Phiri and Kelvin Maseko.
He stayed with Railstars until 2002 when the team was relegated and he then moved to Albania in 2003 to play for FK Bylis.
The move to Albania came about after he had finished as the runner up to Gift Kamuriwo in the top goal scorers chart with 14 goals, one less than the winning tally.
Nyambiya only stayed for eight months in Albania and came back after FK Bylis were relegated as he could not continue playing for them since that country’s football laws did not allow foreigners to play in the lower leagues.
On his return Nyambiya joined Shabanie Mine in August 2003 and helped save the team from relegation with Moses Chunga as his coach.
In 2004 he moved back to Railstars after the team won promotion back into the top flight.
The following year saw Nyambiya crossing the floor to join city rivals Highlanders on a loan deal and he played with the likes of Honour Gombami, Tapuwa Kapini and others.
He did not last the season at Highlanders after suffering an injury at training.
“Up to today I still don’t understand how I got injured because I got hurt when I was taking a corner kick and this was just before the trip to England where Highlanders travelled with CAPS United to play a match in that country and management had to rope in Obadiah Tarumbwa as my replacement,” Nyambiya says.
He was sidelined for six months and after his recovery he moved back to Njanji in 2006 where he stayed for two seasons before joining Boteti Young Fighters in Botswana where he played for two years.
In 2010 he came back home and rejoined Railstars who were back in the first division.
After playing a game in Hwange he attracted the attention of then Hwange Football Club coach Tenant Chilumba and efforts began to get him to sign for the coal miners only for the deal to fall through after he failed to agree personal terms with Chipangano.
Nyambiya then ventured into coaching in 2011 and worked with Trust schools in Bulawayo before starting his Young Flying Stars Soccer Academy together with Arnold Nhidza and former Highlanders players Sizabantu Khoza and Master Masiku.
“After working with kids from Trust schools I realized the need to groom talented players from the eastern suburbs because there are many who have the desire to play football professionally but do not have the opportunity because the game is concentrated in the western areas,” Nyambiya says.
The Young Flying Stars Academy is located at Crescent Sports Club.