Augustine Hwata Sports Reporter
FORMER Dynamos midfielder Ali Cassim reaped the rewards of an innovation by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe to set up a benevolent fund after he graduated with an Honours’ Degree in Electronic Engineering at Harare Institute of Technology on Thursday.
The attacking midfielder, who is now playing for Zifa Mashonaland West Division Two side Lynx Rangers, was among the 277 graduates capped by President Robert Mugabe at HIT’s fifth graduation ceremony.
Notably, for Cassim, is the fact that rarely are current and former players a regular feature among students that graduate from local colleges and universities.
Cassim is, however, cut from a rare cloth that can excel in both sport and academics and on Thursday he was one of the stand-out students after he scooped three individual awards.
The midfielder, who made his name while featuring for Moses Chunga’s Kidznet, was awarded the Vice Chancellor’s First Prize for Best Graduating Student in Electronic Engineering.
Cassim also walked away with the Prize for Best Graduating Student while the Security and Surveillance Systems Design gong completed his hat-trick of awards.
But the former Zimbabwe youth international could have graduated in 2006 from the University of Zimbabwe, but his academic career at that time went into limbo.
“I first enrolled at the UZ to study Bsc Electrical Engineering in 2003 but I failed to continue with my studies after failing to raise fees.
“The fall-back position was football and I continued playing at Dynamos where I was part of Moses Chunga’s ‘Kidznet’ project and I left Dynamos in 2007 to join Gunners.
“I joined Dynamos as a junior in 1996 when I was in Grade 7 in the Under-13 team which also had Amisi, Maroto, Kuziva Mbuwa, Hamilton Murisa, and others.
“I then rose through the ranks and made my debut under Keegan Mumba (now late) against Lancashire Steel at Rufaro on August 7 2003
“We won 2-1 with Mudhara Ajira (Agent Sawu) and Bra Eddie Mashiri on target
“I also played for Gunners and then went to Eagles where I picked up an injury and was sidelined. I struggled to raise medical bills.
“With my football career seemingly shattered, I approached FUZ for help and that’s when they agreed to sponsors for my studies at HIT,” said Cassim.
He is married to Ethel Nyakabau.
Former Dynamos striker Tauya Murewa went to the University of Zimbabwe, while the late Roderick Muganhiri was also a medical doctor.
Others like Lloyd Hlahla, Rodreck Dhlakama, Jostein Mambo-Mathuthu and Taurai Mangwiro are trained teachers.
Mavhuto Chapani, the former Trojan Stars, CAPS United and Motor Action striker, also had a sound education.
“I am so happy, I have been waiting for this day (graduation) in my life, when I could be capped by His Excellency President Mugabe.
“Now that has happened and my dream has come true,” Cassim said.
He now hopes to repay the faith shown in him by FUZ through helping the union and also inspiring other players.
“Through my degree, I hope to help my custodians, FUZ. One way would be to develop a system that will count the number of people at stadiums so that revenue from the gates will be properly accounted for.
“I can also design a system for parking cars at stadiums or even helping in setting up the database,” said Cassim.
FUZ secretary-general Paul Gundani praised the resilience shown by Cassim in pursuing his football and academic careers.
“There are a lot of players who can also do well at school and we encourage them to take that path as well.
“Football is just a short career but with other professional qualifications, one can have something to fall back on.
“Not everyone would be a coach after retiring, so players have to prepare for the future and invest in other professions.
“The general misconception is that footballers are not gifted academically but that is all wrong as proved by Ali and others before,” said Gundani.
Gundani said it was up to the players to take the challenge.
“As FUZ, we are going around and trying to hold a workshop on the subject. Our resources are limited and we cannot help everyone but we hope people like Cassim will play their part,” he said.