THERE seems to be no player that epitomises how far DC Academy have risen in such a short space of time better than midfielder Devon Chafa.
Chafa, who has seven league titles and several cups under his belt, is the academy’s shining light as he finds himself cast as the poster boy for a flourishing youth academy that is being hailed as the future of local football by many.
When the 2020 Castle Lager Premiership campaign commences next month, Chafa will be playing in his 12th season in the domestic top-flight since graduating from DC Academy.
But it’s not only Chafa who has risen from the academy in the modest environs of Highfield to play in the Premier League.
Players such as Yadah FC’s Munyaradzi Chiwara, Marshal Mudehwe of Manica Diamonds, Chicken Inn’s Marlvin Gaki, Tapiwa Chilenga, who is at ZPC Kariba, James Marufu, Tonderai Mateyaunga (both CAPS United), are some of DC’s alumnus who are set to light up the Premier League.
At Ngezi Platinum Stars it appears something special is blossoming after the club acquired the DC Academy products in Chafa, Denver Mukamba, Gerald Takwara, Kudzai Chigwida and Nigel Makumbe ahead of the 2020 season.
Perhaps it is not too much of a surprise given that Chafa and Mukamba share nine titles between themselves and hopes are high that they could be what the doctor has ordered to end Madamburo’s title drought.
Chafa and Mukamba were together when Dynamos won the 2011 and 2012 titles. And while Mukamba left for South Africa the following season, Chafa remained with the Glamour Boys and went on to win two more titles in 2013 and 2014.
When Mukamba’s career took a nosedive, Chafa went on to lift three more titles with CAPS United (2016) and FC Platinum (2018 and 2019) raising hopes that among the Ngezi Platinum Stars followers that this year could be finally theirs.
“It’s great when we look at the players that have come through the academy and it gives us high hopes of a better future,” Chafa told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Me and Denver we go a long way from DC Academy as well as Nigel (Makumbe) and Gerald (Takwara). So, it’s like family coming back together. If we can develop that understanding we had at the academy and during our days at Dynamos with the help of other guys it will surely be awesome.
“Me and Denver are brothers, everything that we do we do to the best of our abilities.”
Takwara summed it up when he says that the DC Academy’s graduates are mates who have known each other since they were young.
“It’s really exciting, it’s fun to be re-uniting here in Ngezi. We played together at DC Academy especially with Nigel. Devon and Denver were our seniors at the academy but it’s really exciting to be here together once again,” he said.
“We have known each other since we were young and we are looking forward to doing everything and ensuring we succeed,”
DC Academy has earned a reputation as one of the best academies locally alongside others such as the famed Aces Youth Soccer Academy, Bantu Rovers and the Harare City developmental side.
The academy is being rewarded for their foresight and, while many bemoan the state of grassroots, they offer proof that it is not a lost cause, to invest in junior development.
The foundations for DC Academy’s success were laid down in 2007 in Highfield, when former Warriors international Dickson Choto tasked Newton Chitehwe to spot and develop local talent.
The famous Zimbabwe Grounds commonly known as Mazigo became the birthplace of the academy with their catchment area being Highfiled, Glen Norah, Mbare and Glen View.
“Grassroots development is the way to go if our football is to go forward,” Choto, who spent over a decade playing for Legea Warsaw in Poland, told the Daily News on Sunday.
“Of course given the current state of things, we can’t really say our grassroots structures are in a very healthy state but we need to soldier on.
“As for DC, we are on a very positive run, we want to keep on working as positively as we have done. We want to keep on working with young players. I think we are a very good example of the future of local football.
“In the short time that I have been here, I have been very surprised at how well the local players are doing. I think there is a lot of belief in young players, especially at DC. There is a very good structure in place and the idea is to continue.
“There has to be that belief that there is a future for these young players and we definitely have that here at the academy at DC. It’s then down to the responsibilities of coaches. We have to believe in young players. We have to have confidence in them.”
Chitehwe, who is credited for developing most of the players at DC Academy having spent nine years there before joining Premiership side ZPC Kariba, where he is now the team manager is pleased with advances DC have made over the years.
“I’m delighted and proud as a coach, but above all I’m so proud of the players for developing into Premiership and national team players,” he said.
“It’s been fantastic and it’s a great testament to the work that is going on within the academy from the recruitment guys to the coaches, and the many people beyond that. To have done what we have done there is fantastic for the academy.”
Meanwhile, Mukamba is hoping the DC Academy connection will provide Ngezi with the spark for the Mhondoro-based side to lift the title this season.
“I’m happy and excited to be here at Ngezi. It’s a good side and I hope we will be able to work hard and make the community happy by winning something for them,” he said.
“I think the major factor that brings me here is the presence of coach Rodwell Dhlakama. He has been there for me since day one, he encouraged me a lot since I came back. He told me I’m a good player and I can make it in life.
“I listened to his words and I’m really grateful, I’m back in shape and I want to repay his faith in me. I believe I will shine again. My aim is to come back into the national team. I want to continue working hard and I know one day I will be back in the national team.
“The good thing here is that I have some of my teammates from DC so I expect us to combine well.
“We played together with some of the players like Chafa, Takwara and Makumbe at junior level and it’s looking very promising. We want to win the title here and it’s very possible.”
Takwara also concurred with Mukamba’s sentiments.
“We will try and put smiles on our fans’ faces. I will do my best and I know my teammates will do their best also to make our community proud. We will give everything that we have on the field,” said Takwara.
“I think the coaches have brought in seasoned, quality players and I hope we will be able to gel quicker so that we can make something out.”