Footballers are often treated negatively by the press. They’re usually portrayed as being self-interested and detached from reality because of the enormous amounts of money they earn at the highest level. That might be true of some of them, but not for Zim Warriors midfielder Marvelous Nakamba. The soccer star, who plays for Aston Villa in the English Premier League, has never forgotten where he came from. Now he’s in a position to help others, he’s doing so, and he’s proven it by paying school fees for one thousand students in his home country.

As one of the country’s most successful sportsmen, Nakamba runs a charity under the name “The Marvelous Nakamba Foundation” aimed at raising money for worthwhile causes in Zimbabwe. The charity supports a variety of different interests, but the funding for school places comes through its “Educational Assistance Plan” project. If all goes well, this will only be the beginning of Nakamba’s efforts to help Zimbabwean schoolchildren. From this initial set of one thousand school places, he hopes to provide funding for one hundred thousand by the end of the year. Looking further into the future, he’d like to have reached a target figure of one million paid-for school places by the end of 2025. By that time, Nakamba will be 32 and possibly contemplating the end of his professional football career at the highest level.

In a personal statement released alongside the announcement of the new initiative, Nakamba referred to the old saying, “it takes a nation to raise a child.” He noted the difficulties that have come with schools being closed for a long time because of the 2020 pandemic and the related problems that have affected parents who’ve struggled to raise money to cover school fees because of it. The press statement notes that Nakamba sees education as a basic human right, and he hopes to put as many children in touch with that right as possible. The funds have already been paid out, with the successful students drawn from a variety of locations around the country. Special attention has been paid to areas where great disparity exists or where underprivileged children historically struggle to gain access to school places.

The lack of funding that sometimes prevents children from going to school has, in some instances, resulted in a two-tiered education system where the children of the wealthy get the chance to learn and better themselves, but the children of the less wealthy do not. The situation has also, with some justification, been compared to playing online slots. Through circumstances beyond their control, two children from the same area might have different experiences of education because one gets funding assistance, and one does not. Neither party has any control over how that happens, which is exactly the process followed when gamblers spin the reels of online slots. The big difference is that winning and losing is all part of the fun when you’re playing slots at websites like Rose Slots. Education should never be a lottery, and initiatives like Nakamba’s will help to ensure that it doesn’t remain one.

Nakamba’s attitude toward helping children is born from personal experience. He grew up in underprivileged circumstances at home but considered himself fortunate that he had a natural gift for football that helped him escape from those circumstances. His talents as a young player got him noticed by Highlanders and then Bantu Rovers, where he was eventually noticed by European scouts. He moved abroad as an 18-year-old and joined the French side AS Nancy in 2012. He struggled to find his best form in France and was eventually moved on to Vitesse in the Netherlands, where he started to show the form he displayed in Zimbabwe. Belgian side Club Brugge acquired him in 2017. Nakamba won the Belgian league with Brugge before his big move to the English Premier League came along in August 2019.

His first season in England was a struggle. It was Aston Villa’s first season back in England’s top flight after an absence of many years, and the team narrowly avoided relegation at the very end of the season. This time around, things are very different. Nakamba has cemented himself as an integral part of coach Dean Smith’s side, appearing in almost every game this season as Villa perform above expectations. Their early-season form has fallen away a little in recent months, but they’re still in contention for European qualification next time around. The club’s fans have noted the role that Nakamba has played in their relative success this year, and teammate John McGinn is a big fan of his, too. Although Ollie Watkins is the club’s star striker and gets most of the media attention that’s afforded to the team, McGinn recently spoke up to confirm that no matter how good an athlete Watkins is, Nakamba is even stronger and fitter.

The greater the heights Nakamba reaches in his career, the more he’ll be able to do to help the people of Zimbabwe. It might be the case that he achieves even more in the future. The midfielder is creating a reputation for himself as a high-quality footballer in England, and that might put him on the map for an even bigger move in the future. Villa is historically a big club but hasn’t challenged for major honours for many years. Nakamba is 27 years old and about to reach what ought to be the prime years of his career. A big move might tempt the player if it became a possibility in the summer, although the fact that there are still three years to run on his current contract might be an issue. In the meantime, he’s focused on helping his current club finish the season as strongly as possible.

Having already made the necessary payments to provide these one thousand school places, Nakamba’s Foundation is already putting plans in place to fund more. If they’re to reach their target of funding one hundred thousand places by the end of 2021, they need to fund over ten thousand per month for the rest of the year. That would involve a lot of money and a lot of Zimbabwean children going to school when they may never have got the chance if it weren’t for his efforts. We’ll keep our eye on their progress and let you know whether they’re successful in their aim.