One of Woza’s inspiring international partners is Chigoli Academy in Lilongwe, Malawi. Not only does Chigoli aim to produce some of the best talent in the country, but it also strives to produce some of the most well-rounded individuals, with education and character development heavily prioritized. In addition to the Academy, Chigoli operates a vibrant community program supporting disadvantaged groups in Malawi through football tournaments, including street children, the blind and refugees. The Chigoli Community Programme engages with over 2,500 children in Malawi each year. For those who display academic or footballing potential, Chigoli offers life-changing pathways to previously unattainable opportunities.
One player who personifies this balance of soccer talent and academic success is 14 year-old Zobran Elias. Zobran is from Lilongwe, and like many academy players, Zobran spent his childhood in poverty, with his family previously requiring food support to feed him and his younger brother. Another thing Zobran shares with others at the academy is a very real talent and passion for soccer. Despite being just 14, Zobran regularly trains and competes with the U16 team at Chigoli. When asked what he likes about soccer, he said he enjoys being part of a team, as well as the health and fitness benefits of the sport. According to Chigoli coaches, he often takes it upon himself to do extra training at home, on top of his regular training schedule with Chigoli. It’s this kind of hard work that makes his goals of becoming a professional soccer player and playing for the Malawi National Team seem within reach.
However, what truly makes Zobran stand out is his desire to continue learning, and his commitment to his education. Due to his hard work in the classroom, he’s earned a scholarship to one of the premier schools in Lilongwe, where he is excelling in a number of subjects (though he says he likes science and mathematics the most). His goals for the future don’t end on the soccer field either, as he also dreams of becoming a neurologist later in life. Zobran’s combination of soccer skill, educational excellence and motivation have led him to begin an application process for a scholarship that would allow him to attend high school in the United States and continue to chase his dreams, both on the field and in the classroom. In the words of Chigoli Academy Head Coach Joe Hesketh, “Zobran is an incredibly unique individual and his story is amazing. We are hopeful he will get the chance he deserves.”
Zobran is just one example of the kind of talented, versatile and high-achieving players that come through the Chigoli Academy system, and Woza Soccer is extremely proud to be working with such an influential and important organization.