Many a time, aspiring footballers end up casting a deaf ear or blind eye to their academic capabilities because they fail to strike a balance between the beautiful game and education.
As a demanding sport, football requires maximum concentration and commitment, making it very difficult for one to give attention to both the ball and the book.
Student-athletes with double career opportunities struggle with time management and eventually settle for one, not both.
But 19-year-old Beven Kaitano wants to strike a balance between football and education and is doing well in that regard.
The youngster, who is doing A’Level pursuing Arts at Zvishavane High School, is a professional footballer and was recently promoted to the FC Platinum first team.
Kaitano made his debut for the defending Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions, when they walloped Yadah 4-0 in the first round of the Chibuku Super Cup last week.
On a normal day, the Glendale-bred midfielder has to go to school in the morning —where he is doing History, Family and Religious Studies and Physical Education.
He spends the entire morning trying to analyse topics like that of former French military Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who dominated European politics for decades, before he passed away on May 5, 1921.
The soft-spoken Kaitano also has to study topics like how the origins of prophecy in Israel, the challenges and the historical problems associated with the dates of emergence of what may be regarded as ‘prophecy’ in the Middle East country.
Then in the afternoon, Kaitano has to go and pay attention to more notes, the only difference is those for the post-lunch period are not written on the chalkboard —they are inked on the tactics board by FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza.
“It’s a big challenge I’m facing right now,” admits Kaitano.
“It’s difficult sometimes to concentrate or to study when I am tired from training sessions. Sometimes I have to sleep a lot to recover but I make sure that I balance both football and school. The club is also very supportive in my quest to do both,” adds the youngster.
Kaitano vividly remembers when he was promoted from the FC Platinum development side —the FC Platinum U-19 —which plays in the Central Region Division One, to the first team.
He still gets goose bumps over the achievement.
“I wasn’t expecting such kind of grace to locate me, and I just thank God. Some of the players at FC Platinum are people I admire and idolize, so to be sharing the dressing room with them all of a sudden is a moment to savour,” Kaitano said.
“At some point, I played at the Nash Copa Coca Cola competitions. I was selected for a scholarship at Guinea Fowl High School through the FC Platinum structures,” he added.
The versatile midfielder is hoping to gradually adjust in the world of professional football.
“This season, I’m expecting to get more game time as an introduction to the professional level of football,” he said.
Mapeza’s smile when asked about Kaitano conveyed a lot of messages about how he feels about giving youngsters a chance at the highest level.
“It’s unfortunate people don’t can’t see that. But we are not doing this for people to see,” said Mapeza.
“Look, we have just been given another opportunity to play in the World Cup qualifiers. So it means the door has been opened for us to participate in these international youth tournaments.
“So giving young players like Beven an opportunity, it is also saying to the other coaches who have applied for the national U20 and U23 posts ‘look, there is this youngster from FC Platinum’ and they can give him a chance to play for the youth national team,” added the former Warriors captain.
In light of Kaitano’s promotion to the Zvishavane-based side’s first team, Mapeza urged the Premier Soccer League to change their stance as far as youngsters are concerned.
“My wish is for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to allow these youngsters to play for our U-19 team, it would give them advantage,” explained Mapeza.
“He (Kaitano) is registered now with the first team but the competition (for places in the team) is still very high for him to command a regular place.
“So if he could be registered with us, and then go and play for our U-19 team, to get a lot of game time but that’s not the situation here.
“So, I just hope that he keeps on working hard so that we give him more opportunities.
Mapeza admits it’s not easy for a youngster to balance football and school.
“It’s difficult, but right now, he is on holiday. So he is training with us, because usually he goes to school in the morning. So the coaches have to come up with a programme to accommodate him.
“But if they can’t be successful in implementing a programme for him after school, it means for the whole week he won’t be able to train, then he won’t be able to have game time as well.
“It’s difficult for him, but like I said, I will try by all means to keep on giving him opportunities,” added Mapeza.
Zvishavane High School Sports Director Jerryfanos Ndawi, who is also Kaitano’s History teacher and football coach, believes balancing sport and education helps students become independent.
“It’s good (for students to strike a balance between football and education). It helps students economically because they become self’-sufficient, and socially, they mature early,” said Ndawi.
“Talent is identified at a young age, unlike in the past when someone had to finish school first then play in professional sport. Also, it helps other students to take sports seriously at school level.
“Beven has done so well, he has been able to balance school work with training. As a school, we believe that the new curriculum has done well in bringing different pathways for school students and sport is one of them.
“Beven does his lessons and is allowed to go for training after his lessons. Some teachers have been working with him through Information Communication Technology (ICT) so that he does his school work after training, at home.
“He is well-disciplined and this has helped him to do well in school,” added Ndawi.
Ndawi urged other students to emulate Kaitano and do both school and professional sport simultaneously.
“My word of advice to young talented sports persons is that go for it (sport and education) but the most important thing is discipline. If you lack discipline, you won’t go far.
“All the famous sport personalities are where they are today because they were able to exercise discipline. Coaches are like parents and one should listen to them. One also needs to work extra hard to improve, attain and achieve their goals in sport.
“It’s not easy but it’s achievable”.
The young man will go far if keeps his sense of purpose alive.