By Duncan Mlanjira
Lilongwe-based Ascent Soccer’s robust scouting efforts in 2019 saw it able to field a full girls’ squad, which it describes as an important milestone towards achieving its focus on 50/50 gender representation in the football academy’s age groups within five years.
To achieve this, Ascent Soccer recruited Malawian college social science graduate, Chisomo Chikuni in October 2019 to provide full time capacity for driving the girls program forward.
The academy intends to continue liaising with Football Association of Malawi (FAM) to be building Under-20 and 17 girls’ which the football governing body can tap from for the national women’s squads for 2020 going onwards.
“We will be proud to have many of these young women representing their country this year,” said the academy in its review of its 2019 achievements.
One of the academy’s coaches coaches is Thom Mkorongo — former Civo and Silver Strikers who has maintained that it has been a very exhilarating experience he has had in the past four years he has been with Ascent.
FAM’s general secretary Alfred Gunda applauded Ascent Soccer, saying the 50-50 gender inclusive is a wonderful initiative which their technical department is supporting.
“You will note that the people working there are part of FAM technical development and they benefit from materials that are distributed to organised academies.
“There is constant exchange of program progress with the technical department and talent from the FIFA/FAM U-15 program has been drafted into the academy,” he said.
Among the 2019 highlights for the girls include international travel opportunities which saw Ireen Khumalo, Mercy Nickson and Memory Kulemeka boarding their first-ever flight to travel to the United States and participated in former US national team star Julie Foudy’s leadership academy.
In collaboration with French Dog Productions, Lughano Nyondo attended the Women’s World Cup semifinal and final in France alongside the other female players profiled in ‘This Girl Wears Cleats’ film documentary and a month later she arrived in Connecticut, USA to attend Indian Mountain School, where she has excelled in the classroom and on the pitch.
For the boys, Ascent player Zobran Elias became pioneer athlete scholar when he earned a scholarship at Indian Mountain school in the US.
His hard work attributes earned him the Triangle Prize, the school’s most prestigious award recognizing the student who best balances scholastic effort and achievement, citizenship and service, and athletic ability and coachability.
“He also earned a Davis Scholarship, covering the full cost of a world class secondary education for worthy emerging global citizens, to attend the Taft School in Connecticut,” says the report.
“Zobran featured regularly for a formidable Taft Varsity side that reached the New England Class A semifinals last fall.”
Lughano Nyondo, followed Zobran to the Indian Mountain School, becoming Ascent’s first female athlete scholar where she shone as top scorer and MVP in their undefeated 2019 season.
“She is likely to enroll at a Boston area boarding school in the year ahead, serving as a quintessential ambassador of the transformational stories Ascent makes possible,” says Ascent Soccer.
Two other players, Under-17 starlets Festus Duwe and Lovemore Mbeta joined FC Connecticut at the Gothia Cup in Sweden in July where they reportedly caught the attention of local scouts while gaining exposure to Scandinavian culture and fast befriending their American teammates.
On the local scene, Ascent’s Under-20 and 17 squads both claimed league titles, demonstrating remarkable resilience across grueling fixture lists and against players typically several years older them.
The Under-20s scored 123 goals in 34 matches, led by 44 from Chris Gototo, who was rewarded with a U20 national team call up.
The U17s had Rashid Chilomo as top scorer with 22 goals in 30 matches.
At the COSAFA Under-17 tournament held in Mauritius in July 2018, Ascent contributed three players — Francis Mtoso, Emmanuel Mitole and Lovemore Mbeta with Mtoso and Mitole scoring two of Malawi’s six goals.
Mtoso and Mitole were featured in their first game against Angola, which they lost 0-1 and in the second game against Zimbabwe, Malawi started all three ascent players with Francis as captain.
They won 5-0 huge with Francis and Emmanuel each scoring as Emmanuel and Lovemore created an assist each.
Malawi then needed to beat Swaziland by two or more goals to go through but could only manage a 1-0 victory and bowed out on goal difference.