27 July 2016

The road to Rio: Young woman from SOS Children's Villages at Olympic Games

Young Mavis' talent for football was discovered early on. Her passion and dedication have paid off - Mavis is part of Zimbabwe's Olympic football team. Photographer: SOS Archives

Mavis is on her way to participate in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. The 21-year old footballer, who grew up in an SOS Children’s Village in Zimbabwe, is preparing for the Olympics with her team, the Mighty Warriors.

Humble beginnings

It was starting to get dark and children with dusty boots were dragging their feet home, as if to prolong the play. Not Mavis. The young mid-fielder was still on the patchy field – just her and a few soccer balls. She would simply wave her hand nonchalantly when siblings called her home. Mavis was on the pitch every night till it was too dark to see one’s hand in front of your face. But the girl had plans and she practised with a passion.
 
Nineteen at the time and still living at home with her SOS family in Bindura, Mavis was captaining the national under 20’s team and had already played international games in Germany and Egypt. Two years later, Mavis lives in Harare and plays in the women’s premier league and Zimbabwe’s national team. She has played international fixtures in eight countries, and Brazil is next.
 
Mavis came to live with her SOS family in Bindura when she was one year old. The toddler was found by the roadside and brought to the SOS Children’s Village by a stranger. Her SOS family refers to this stranger as the Good Samaritan. “I thank God, particularly for the fact that I found a family at the village and you wouldn’t really tell the difference between me and children raised in a proper family setup,” said Mavis in an interview recently.
 
As a little girl, Mavis was often seen playing on the village football pitch with her SOS siblings and once she started school, she soon played for the Hermann Gmeiner Primary School team. When she was eleven years old, teachers and peers came to notice that this girl’s talent was something special. “I learnt that I was good at football when I was in grade 5 [age 11],” agreed Mavis.

The road to Rio

In 2010, SOS Children’s Village Bindura, including the Hermann Gmeiner Schools, registered their girls’ football team in a competitive league, and 15-year-old Mavis stood out as a teen sensation and rising star, with various national team coaches encouraging her to dedicate time to her training. She then joined the national under 17 team.

Grundy Mhike was an assistant coach to the SOS Children’s Villages team in 2010. He remembers that Mavis had the necessary talent to play for the national team. “Mavis has always been a hard worker; that is one thing I know. She is a born dribbler and the girl can shoot for goal,” said Grundy, who volunteered his time to work with the team and Mavis.
 
Mavis and her football team. Photo: SOS Archives

Mavis has a small build with a proud gait. Her football kit is spotless, even after a practice session, and she tends to shake her head slightly before she speaks. Even after all the accolades and praise, there is a little disbelief that the crowd favourite’s dreams are coming true.

She has set her sights on a future as a professional football player, and dreams of playing abroad with international clubs like the Liverpool Ladies or Arsenal LFC. “I’m now looking forward to playing at the Olympics with the Mighty Warriors; it is not an easy feat but I trust my performance and ability,” she told Daily News Zimbabwe.

Mavis’ SOS family supports her all the way

Although Mavis is now a household name in Zimbabwe, ties with her SOS family are still strong. Rocky Munyanyi, SOS programme director in Bindura, believes Mavis is already an inspiration for girls living in SOS families around the world.

“There are a couple of ways that Mavis can become an inspiration to more girls around the world, like becoming a brand ambassador or being linked with professional women soccer teams in Europe for further growth in her career,” said Rocky.
 
Edwin Magosvongwe, SOS youth leader in Bindura, has been close with Mavis since 2009, and although he knew she was talented, her success amazes him.
 
“She has been very determined and focused on her development. Over the past years, she has transformed herself into a role model because of her achievements. Everyone at home is very proud of what she has done. She has managed to excel in a field that was usually dominated by men and we salute her for that.”
 
The Zimbabwe team’s first Olympic match against Germany is scheduled for 3 August.