In the end, it was a dream deferred. It had been a roller-coaster journey for Yolanda Showa, the 16-year-old MTC Sirens FC star striker from Nhedziwa, Chimanimani. Yolanda is one of many beneficiaries of the MTC Foundation's investment in community sport for girls and young women in Chimanimani. When Yolanda heard about our free community girls' soccer project back in 2019, she presented herself before our volunteer coaches, ready to learn.
Well, Yolanda learned the sport so well that when MTC Sirens played Mutambara High School in a friendly match in late 2019, she was offered a scholarship to attend the more prestigious Mutambara High School as a student-athlete! Yolanda continued to play for MTC Sirens during the school holidays. Those who have watched her play are convinced that she possesses immense talent and shows a solid work ethic.
Yolanda's career as a soccer player reached new heights at the MTC IDGC Girls Soccer Tournament held at Nhedziwa on 16 October 2021. Hosted by MTC Foundation in celebration of the girl child, the tournament attracted interest from girls' teams across Chimanimani and beyond. One guest team - and eventual senior champions - Rozaria Girls Soccer Club of Murehwa, traveled all the way from -- you guessed it -- Murehwa in Mashonaland East province to participate. The tournament turned out to be a mixed blessing for Yolanda and her team; MTC Sirens could not take advantage of the boisterous home crowd to carry them to the finals.
Individually, Yolanda excelled, co-winning the top goal scorer award with Anna Mercy from Rozaria Girls Soccer Club. The story of Yolanda could have taken a pause at this point but little did she know her prowess in front of goal had been spotted by scouts of the Manicaland Provincial Select Team. As it turned out, Yolanda's teammate, Makanaka Macherenje, a goalkeeper, also made the cut.
Yolanda did not disappoint at the provincial level either, leading to the BIG call! While playing for some friendly matches for the Manicaland Select, Yolanda was informed she had been invited to the Zimbabwe U17 Women's Provisional Squad! Yolanda laced up her boots and -- alongside the other few players from Manicaland who had been successful -- made the long trip to Harare. Sadly, her friend Makanaka who had also made it past the Manicaland Provincial Select squad and was also invited to Harare couldn't stay in camp for long. When she got to Harare, she was informed that they had invited too many goalkeepers and she had to make the return trip early.
The Zimbabwe Football Association(ZIFA) had been putting together a national women's under 17 squad after 2 years of inactivity due to COVID-19 lockdowns. The U17 squad would also be participating at the African Union Region 5 Youth Games in Maseru, Lesotho between December 3 - 12, 2021. For the first time in her life, Yolanda stepped onto the turf inside the giant National Sports Stadium in Harare in the traditional yellow and green of Zimbabwe's national soccer squads and trained with other members of the Zimbabwe U17 Select provisional squad. She did her best, hoping to be among the final 18 players from the provisional 30-player pool. Two weeks ago, Yolanda was told she was on the trimmed down squad of 25 and she continued to press for that spot in the final 18. Like everyone else in camp, she submitted to COVID-19 tests and other procedures. Well, on Tuesday, December 30, the players were informed that Zimbabwe was no longer sending the boys' and girls' soccer squads to participate in the regional tournament in Lesotho because of uncertainty surrounding the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.
Yolanda is returning to Chimanimani with her head held high as always. Her dream to play for Zimbabwe has been deferred but it lives on in her heart. Her family, friends and teammates in Chimanimani will welcome her as one of their own. As MTC Foundation, we are beyond excited that our Yolanda made the improbable journey from Chimanimani to rub shoulders with players from elite academies in Harare. She will be serving as a role model for her teammates and community. Watch this space for the next chapter in Yolanda from Chimanimani!