Under the gaze of coach Abel Mkandawire, a boy steps forward to receive a ball. He controls it and, in an instant, passes it back into the palms of the trainer. Other children, aged between 10 and 15, take their turns.
Such is life every day. A bus picks up these youth from Blantyre locations every afternoon when they have knocked off from school to this Surestream Stadium. The stadium emerged from the ruins of MDC Stadium.
There may not have been much publicity about their activities since their delinking from the then Surestream Football Club, but the trail-blazing Surestream Academy is, according to public relations and human resources manager, Linda Gombera, surely remaining true to its original calling.
“We encourage them to put school first, so they go to school in the morning and come to the academy in the afternoon. We want to show them that sports and education are not incompatible, but can go together with proper time management,” Gombera observed about the academy that boasts some 50 children and five highly qualified coaches.
All under Medical Aid Association of Malawi (Masm) medical insurance cover, the children are not allowed to play for any other team. And, courtesy of highly-qualified sports scientists, the players follow a strict diet.
“We also work with their respective schools for us to monitor their grades and general conduct. We then extend the monitoring to their parents so that they tell us how they behave at home. We are very strict on discipline,” Gombera stated, adding that they provide football boots and training wear.
Technical operations manager, Patrick Kulemeka, said the academy, which was established in 2012 as part of Surestream Oil Company corporate social responsibility, has continued to operate normally despite separating from the now Wizards FC.
He emphasized that players of different age groups report to the academy and acquire skills that improve the way they play football.
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