My name is Stanley Nyazamba and I was born on January 6th, 1983 in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. I lived with my parents and siblings Joy, Revai and Ray until I was 5 years old. At that time, my mother Simbisai moved 6 hours away to open a grocery store & provide for our family. This meant that I would be enrolled in boarding school at the age of 6 and it would be the place where I realized that for me, soccer was more than just a game. During school breaks, I would play soccer with neighborhood friends in the dusty streets of Bulawayo and finally at age 13, was able to play on an organized youth team. In Form 1, which is equivalent to the 9th grade I made the the Varsity team where I played all the way to high school. As the youngest player on the team, I learned to play strong and fight to stay up with the older and often bigger, boys on my team.
During school breaks, I played for the Zimbabwe Saints junior team, and after high school graduation, I moved back to Bulawayo and continued playing for the Saints. A year later, my childhood mentor became the youth coach at Amazulu football club and I made a move to that club. That transition began my serious journey into futball or what is called soccer in the United States. Equipped only with heart, experience and a love for the game, I was occasionally featured on the reserve team for Amazulu's professional side. This helped shape and refine my technique and tactical awareness but all was not perfect as I failed to break onto the first team - forcing another move for me and my dream.
Still in Bulawayo, another mentor, the late Benjamin Moyo formed a team, MNU, and I was an immediate addition to his squad. Second division soccer was more exciting and competitive than junior competitions so my ambitions were blooming & my confidence was souring too. During one particular game, I performed in stellar fashion with no serious worries and no idea who was watching.
Ethan Zohn is a winner in many ways but he was on the reality show "Survivor" and he won! He loves Zimbabwe and always visited during his college summers. After winning the million dollar prize, Ethan helped form a non-profit organization called "Grassroots Soccer". The mission was to use soccer to help raise awareness and provide education to kids in Africa about the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Local Zimbawean players - who were local heros - were also a key part of spreading the message.
Ethan watched me play on a stellar day and thankfully, he was impressed. So he asked me to work with him and Grassroots soccer. I was so enthusiastic and passionate about helping kids in Africa that Ethan proposed helping me find a place to play soccer and continue my college education in the United States. I jumped at the opportunity, and with the love and support of my family, I have never looked back. I always give thanks to Ethan, fellow American George Quraishi and Kirk Friedrich because they worked together to help me realize something I could never have imagined on my own.
Sadly, my mother passed away in October 2003, but I knew she would support this dream and so I made the dream of coming to the USA a reality. George's parents Farrukh Quraishi and Lisa Brock assisted me with airfare and welcomed me into their home on December 27, 2003. They continue to be supportive and meaningful in my life as they were from the first day in America. For them, I feel such gratitude.
In January, 2004 I enrolled at National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and soccer powerhouse Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky. After a disappointing year of playing junior varsity soccer, I moved on to Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee where life took on even greater meaning.
In 2005, I was part of the team that helped lead the Lee University Flames to the first ever Regional title and the NAIA championship tournament. I recorded 21 assists, setting a new school season record and I also made the Dean's List. My extra soccer work outs were beginning to pay off. Throughout the next three yeaars, I was named a three-time All-Conference First Team honoree, earned a place on the 2007 All-American First Team and was named a NAIA All-American Scholar Athlete my senior season. During my tenure at Lee, the Flames posted a record of 53-14-2 and I added 12 goals and 20 assists my senior year. At 6’1” and a midfielder, I finished with 28 goals and 60 assists overall in three seasons, eclipsing the All-Time Assists Leader at Lee University. I also performed well in the classroom, and graduated with the highest honors, Summa cum Laude and was listed in "Who's Who Among Us." My graduation occurred "on time" and my four year cumulative GPA was 3.86, something I am very proud of.
My senior year I also played for a Premier Development League (PDL) team, Cape Cod Crusaders, recording four assists and one goal in 14 appearances. In 2008 I was drafted in the second round of the 2008 Major Indoor Soccer League by the DetroitIgnition. I opted out of playing indoor and signed my professional contract with the Richmond Kickers of the United Soccer League in March 2008. I had an impressive season recording 8 goals and 4 assists, helping the Kickers ascend to the semi-final of USL championships. This solid performance helped get the attention of several Major Soccer League (MLS) teams.
After the USL season I spent a week training with DC United and then Columbus Crew right after. The Crew were impressed and so they signed me right away. I was on the reserve team and we won the 2008 MLS Championship 3 months later. But in 2009 I came face to face with serious adversity and didn't get an playing time. This resulted in a move to a National American Soccer League (NASL) team, FC Tampa Bay in 2010. I played the unfamiliar position of defensive midfielder, tallying 2 assists in 1364 minutes in 25 appearances. I get a kick out of saying that I am one of the very few people to play in all the soccer leagues in the United States!
In 2011, the Richmond Kickers informed me they were interested in me, so I signed with them and moved back north. As a native of Zimbabwe living in what I believe to be very cold weather I recorded the first goal in USL PRO history when I converted a penalty kick against Orlando City in April. I scored two goals and five assists overall that season but I also grew more interested in coaching.
In the 10+ years that I have lived in America, I have coached at various soccer camps in various colleges and for all the clubs I have played for. I also worked alongside former Columbus Crew coach, the late Tom Fitzgerald in the University of Tampa soccer camp. I coached youth teams, U9-U15. In 2011, I also worked with the Richmond Kickers Little Kicks, an in-school soccer program for pre-schoolers. After moving to Atlanta, this inspired me to start my own program, Kidz 'n' Kicks Soccer. We work with pre-school kids of ages 2-8. At one point, I was also an assistant with Oglethorpe's Women's Varsity Team as well as head coach of Georgia Tech's Women's club team. I am living in the moment and greatly enjoying impacting many kids' lives using the world's "beautiful game". Coaching and mentoring youths through soccer is as natural for me as eating breakfast - and I love a good breakfast! Soccer was my ticket to a life that I could never have imagined. Being able to play and coach the game allows me the opportunity to share with others what I have learned and what I love.
Outside soccer, I love the interaction and knowledge that comes with volunteering. Over the years, I have been a volunteer with many organizations including World Pediatric Project, Ryan Nece Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, The Nicole Megaloudis Foundation. I also support the programs like Warrick Dunn CharitieS, Big Brother, Big Sister and Grassroots Soccer. There are many causes that I believe in and feel can definitely make an impact in many people's lives.
I also enjoy watching movies, playing the PS 3, reading, cooking, working out, and spending time at home. I work mostly during the night and sleep late or should I say early morning. My favorite movie is Blue Streak and I love Japanese food. Nelson Mandela's Autobiograph, "Long Walk to Freedom" remains my favorite book. I have bragging rights to making the best curry and jerk chicken with rice.
When I reflect on my life, I feel immensely grateful. There have been so many people along the way who had nothing to gain but reached out to help me. It seems like a fairy-tale that 12 years ago I was playing on the streets of Bulawayo but now live in America working at something that I love and making a difference in the lives of others. I believe God works in mysterious ways and often wonder where I'd be if Ethan Zohn had not come to watch that important game of life. Or what would have been if I'd been sick or played poorly? People have the power to change lives and there is no doubt to me that we are all inter-connected.
Dreams do come true when perseverance, hard-work, devotion and humility, intersect.
I know this because I lived it.