MBARE’S Stanley Kavayi should be ranked among the likes of Charles Muhlauri, Edzai Kasinauyo, Dickson Choto and others – visionaries – who founded football clubs at a young age.
In 2010, when he was only 14, he founded Blue Stars Football Club, becoming one of the youngest football club owners in Zimbabwe. A year later, the club changed name to Real Stars FC before rebranding to team Mai Titi.
“I changed to Real Stars after someone founded their own club and gave it the name Blue Stars as well,” says Kavayi.
“Being young, I felt I had no capacity to mount a legal fight for my name, hence the change.”
The club, registered under Mbare Junior League, only accommodates players up to the age of 16.
Kavayi took time with Youth Interactions to revisit his walk to the big boys’ table. Being the captain of St Michael’s football team, Kavayi believed having to wait for school training was not adequate for him to develop his talent.
During the weekends he would sneak out to go and watch league games at Rufaro Stadium. Mingling with players from the league, Kavayi felt motivated to spend more time on the pitch.
He gathered players from around Mbare and saw the birth of his club, then Blue Stars.
“When I became captain at St Michael’s my love for the sport became stronger, so I would go and watch games at Rufaro,” explains Kavayi.
“One day I just thought, how about I assemble a team so that I can be able to get as much training as I can?
“I walked down the streets inviting my age mates to a nearby playground and since that day back in 2010, I have never looked back.”
Later that year, Kavayi heard of a tournament that was to be hosted in Mbare and decided to register for participation.
Young as he was, he could not afford the $15 participation fee.
He had to open up and plead with his grandmother, Joyce Banda, for assistance.
“She never wanted me to play soccer so if there was anything soccer related for me, I would sneak out but with the participation fee I had no choice. She was the only ‘go-to person’ for me,” he explained.
After some negotiations, the grandmother, gave Kavayi the money he needed. He was soon to discover that another challenge awaited him.
Apart from having to depend on plastic balls for training, no team could participate without a coach, according to the tournament regulations.
Kavayi lied that the team had a coach with the hope that within the three days left to the tournament he would find someone to bail them out.
However, with persistent financial challenges as a school boy he became a founder-cum-player-coach.
He still remembers how on the day of the tournament he had to lie that the coach had gone for a funeral and would only be available later in the day.
“We were first timers at the tournament and I was a player-coach on the day.
“Imagine being a small boy, cooking up lies just so that the team could play. I could not afford any disappointment and apart from that, my grandmother was also coming to watch,” he chuckles.
Amongst the nine teams that played on that particular day, Kavayi’s team finished on position four.
With his little savings from pocket money, he hired an unqualified coach who would train the team once a week while he did on the other days.
Naturally with Kavayi’s age it was difficult to find sponsors and the “coach” later dumped the club.
With time, he would get sponsorship from individuals which kept the club active and able to assist some of its players with groceries and school fees.
Last year, Kavayi rose to become the Mbare Junior League chairperson, a title he currently holds.
In July, together with other stakeholders they organised a tournament that was attended by musicians Seh Calaz, Ammara Brown, Andy Muridzo, Peter Moyo Freeman, Sniper, Baba Harare, Tatenda Mahachi, Obert Chari and comedian Mai Titi.
Baba Harare pledged to sponsor the winning team, while Mai Titi later adopted Real Stars and later rebranded it to Team Mai Titi.
The club is now under her sponsorship and 24-year old Kavayi is gathering resources to establish his second club.
“The club has been instrumental in keeping kids around Mbare off the streets and away from drug related issues.
“Despite the persistent financial constraints I believe there is need to still do more which is why I want to establish a second club,” he explains.