Ascent Soccer partners Unicaf University

* To facilitate access to Unicaf University’s nationally and internationally accredited degree programmes for Ascent Soccer players

* Who are now eligible for enrollment into Unicaf University’s unique online and blended degree programmes after they complete secondary school

By Duncan Mlanjira

Malawi’s only full-time residential football academy, Ascent Soccer, has partnered Unicaf University, one of the leading higher education providers across Africa.


The partnership aims to facilitate access to Unicaf University’s nationally and internationally accredited degree programmes for Ascent Soccer players, who are now eligible for enrollment into Unicaf University’s unique online and blended degree programmes after they complete secondary school.

Ascent Soccer co-founder George Maguire says in a statement: “We are delighted to partner with such a prestigious university to provide further education pathways for a greater number of Ascent players — especially for our female players where well-paying soccer opportunities are lacking within the region.

“Having an internationally recognised degree greatly enhances employment prospects for young people for a career outside, or after football opportunities have been pursued.”



On his part, Unicaf University Vice-Chancellor Dr. Robert Ridley said they “greatly value this partnership with Ascent Soccer, which further enhancing our interaction with sports and recreational activities and promoting overall wellness and fitness as well as academic excellence.

“We look forward to welcoming Ascent Soccer athletes as students.”

Ascent Soccer says it has plan to enrol one or two students by the end of 2023 to activate this partnership, with a view to increasing the number of players accessing degree opportunities as they graduate from secondary school.

Unicaf University is a leading pan-African academic institution, accredited by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) and the British Accreditation Council (BAC) based in the UK.

They offer their students flexible learning options that enable either 100% online study or a combination of on-campus and online teaching at their state-of-the-art campus in Lilongwe.

Founded in late 2014, Ascent Soccer is Malawi’s leading football academy, having assessed over 40,000 young players across Malawi.

Since 2018, Ascent has produced seven players who have gone to world-class boarding schools in the USA and created seven professional players, with trials offered in South Africa, Italy, and Spain.

In 2022 Ascent successfully toured South Africa, and this July, it travelled to Europe to participate in the Rey Cup in Reykjavik, Iceland and whose Under-19 girls’ team was unable to secure the win against the Women’s National Championship Adult team on penalties earlier this year.

In June 2023, Ascent Soccer became the first ever organisation to receive a Lifetime Achievement award from the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) for excellence in youth development.

Ascent Soccer was amongst four outstanding football personalities in the country that FAM recognized that included legendary former Flames goalkeeper, Dennis Saidi; former FIFA referee, Everson Mkwangwanya and illustrious administrator, Robin Alufandika.

In its citation, FAM recognised that since it’s inception, Ascent Soccer has developed into a residential academy with over 80% of its players in boarding facilities and I t is the only full-time academy soccer and scholarship program in the country.

Through guidance of Maguire, it delivers opportunities and global pathways for both boys and girls and over the years, Ascent Soccer has run regional talent identification events and open trials for over 40,000 youth, from which  their current group of 65 student-athletes has been selected.

Tabitha Chawinga, product of Ascent Soccer

Over seven years of programming, they have enrolled full-time soccer scholars from every region of Malawi, whose current academy set-up includes male U-14, U-16 and U-18 squads, along with the U-14 & U-18 Ascent Girls.

All five groups enjoy a full-time academic, character, football, and health/nutrition program, led by a committed group of international and local staff — and there are no fees or costs for any of Ascent’s student-athletes.

So far the Academy has sent seven players abroad, six to the USA on a global scholarship programme and one to Italy. The opportunities available abroad are life-changing, and these talented and determined student-athletes are on a journey to the NCAA and world-class soccer and scholastic pathways.

The Ascent Soccer Global Scholars are currently on full scholarship at some of North America’s best academic institutions and it has also produced over 15 youngsters who have represented Malawi in different national football teams.

Two girls Ireen Khumalo and Marian Mnenula were part of the women’s national football team at last year’s COSAFA Women’s Championship while four girls and four girls were in the Malawi Under-17 squads for the 2022 Regional 5 Games.

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Maguire was responsible for sending Malawi’s best female export Tabitha Chawinga to Europe, whom he spotted with her local club at age 17 and after pulling together a video and spreading the word, helped her land a professional contract with Sweden’s Kvarnsvedens IK.

In 2019, Maguire was honoured with Non-Citizen of the Year award

by Malawi Sport annual awards administered by Malawi National Council of Sports, for the very recognition of the grassroots football development initiative.

He was also nominated for this year’s African Union Sports Council Region 5 annual sport awards (RASA) 2023 also as Non Citizen category.