A REWARD of US$1 for coming out as the top player of a recent girls’ tournament was viewed as an insult in some sections but Primrose Ranjisi never thought it would be a life-changing token.
Our sister publication, the Daily News carried the story of how barefooted Mt Hampden girls overcame a lot before going on to win a football tournament.
Pictures and the article of Ranjisi receiving the single greenback note went viral and opinion was widely divided.
With virtually little sponsorship in women’s football and in particular the grassroots, Ranjisi’s coach Crispen Gomo was compelled to provide a token of appreciation to his goalkeeper.
Ranjisi had just put up a tremendous performance throughout the tournament and had saved two penalties in the final as Fire Queens won the Under-15 competition held at Kuwadzana Primary School in Mt Hampden.
“When we organised this tournament we knocked on each and every door and some of which are well-respected people but the door came crashing on us,” Gomo told the Daily News on Sunday.
“No one could render help but we didn’t want to disappoint our players so we went ahead with the games despite the absence of funding.
“I had my personal trophy that I had kept in my house all this while and I decided to take the trophy so that it will be given to the winners.
“When we went through to the penalties, Prim did well between the sticks; she made some brilliant saves and won the game for us.
“I was very happy with her exploits to the extent that I fished out of my pocket the only US$1 that was separating me from poverty and handed it over to her because I felt she deserved it more, her exploits had made sure our trophy remained within the club.”
The young goalkeeper’s mother Amundide Fungulani could not believe her daughter had just received the $1 note when she arrived home after tournament.
“I have always known of her talent in girls’ football but sadly, I haven’t been able to attend any of her matches you know how it is when you are a single parent, you have to work flat out in order to take care of your kids,” Fungulani told the Daily News at the family’s humble dwellings in Mt Hampden.
“When she told me about the US$1 prize, I doubted her at first but I didn’t want to disappoint her so I asked her to go and get a haircut with that money so that she could go to school presentable.”
Mt Hampden, a few kilometres west of capital, has for many decades been earmarked as the new capital city and will house the upcoming CBD.
At the foot of the New Parliament Building which is currently under construction, is a big compound with dilapidated houses.
This community houses mostly poor families, who have survived all their lives by working as labourers in the surrounding farms.
In recent years, some of these people are now getting short-term contracts as general hands at the New Parliament Building construction site.
This is where Ranjisi and her family have lived all their lives, with Fungulani, a single mother scrapping to make ends meets.
Fungulani never thought that story of the US$1 would open more blessings for her daughter.
The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) was also touched by the image and the article which saw their president Desmond Maringwa dispatching a team to find Ranjisi.
After finally making contact with the 15-year-old, Fuz during their inaugural awards night a week ago announced they would award Ranjisi a scholarship.
The union will now pay for the young girl’s school fees and will be providing her with training kits and football boots.
At the moment, Ranjisi has to walk a long distance to attend school and Fuz said they would help her secure a place at a nearby school.
“It was only after I read about my daughter in the newspaper and started receiving phone calls from well-wishers that I realised what she had done,” she said.
“I’m very grateful for the support that we are receiving, Fuz have promised to pay for her school fees which lifts a very huge burden off my shoulders; words only can’t express how I’m feeling right now.”
Ranjisi was invited to be at the Fuz awards gala where on top of the scholarship; she was also given an extra R2 500.
In her acceptance speech, her sense of belonging to her community came to the fore by reminding the sponsors about her teammates back home.
“Please don’t forget that I am not the only one, there are many girls where I come from who are also just as good as me if not better,” Ranjisi said.
Football was already engraved in her DNA as all her siblings played the game at some different levels.
In a community blighted by teenage pregnancies, child marriages and drug abuse, Ranjisi is fully focused on her fledgling football career as she does not want her talent to be consumed by these vices.
“I used to play for a certain girls’ team but I then quit because the club had ceased being about football but about girls dating older boys and getting pregnant,” Ranjisi told the Daily News on Sunday.
“I felt I was too young for all that and I went in search of a club where people wanted nothing but to play football.”
Fungulani, who earns a living through menial jobs, is the driving force behind her daughter’s football career.
“She is really bright at school, I have always known that my daughter was passionate about football but I told her to try as much to balance it with her education,” Fungulani said.
“Plus kana munhu afunga kuita zve bhora oziva zvaanenge afambira kwete kuita zvevakomana (if someone sets her sights to playing football, she must just do that instead of mixing it with love affairs with boys).”
Ranjisi just like her mother she is a Dynamos supporter and has challenged her childhood club to set up a women’s team.
“My favourite team is Dynamos and I hope that they will set up a girls’ team in the not too distant future so that one day I can play for them,” Ranjisi said.
“My mother is very supportive of my talent and should I make it in life either academically or through sports, I would like to buy her a house, she has gone through a lot just to ensure that we are alive and kicking.”
Ranjisi, who is now a poster girl of everything good about her community, never intended to be a goalkeeper when she chose to play football.
“When I was club-hunting, I went to Zifa Village and there was a game there and I wanted to join a team that I saw there but they said to me they don’t field players who don’t come for training,” she said.
“Fire Queens then invited me to play in their team because they didn’t have enough players to field and coach Gomo said I should play as a goalkeeper but I wanted to play in my normal midfield position; he insisted and that’s how I ended up being a goalkeeper.”
The story is corroborated by her coach Gomo.
“She didn’t want to play as a goalkeeper when I first met her, she even sneaked into toilets just to hide from me but I asked the other girls to follow her and bring her on to the field of play,” he said.
“She did well between the sticks and made some brilliant saves and won the game for us, she has all the ingredients of a good goalkeeper, her ball distribution and how she commands her back line comes second to none.”
Gomo is convinced Ranjisi has what it takes to represent Zimbabwe and has even asked the Under-17 Mighty Warriors coaches to have a look at her.
With everyone focusing on the New Parliament Building and the birth of the new city, hopefully Ranjisi’s story will also grow side by side with Mt Hampden’s growth in the years to come.