kids football team

SRS Foundation Zimbabwe on a mission to transform young lives

Most people move countries in search of a better life, better opportunities or simply to escape.

Sebastien Summerfield, 22, spent his teenage years travelling Europe in hopes of pursuing professional football, until he put his dream on hold to help others achieve theirs.

The knowledge and experience he acquired on his journey inspired him to set up SRS Foundation Zimbabwe, which empowers underprivileged children in the country through education and sports.

Sebastien (right) with a football team in Mbare, Harare

Since moving to London, Zimbabwe-born Sebastien has become a fully registered coach with the FA and studies sports management at the University of Westminster.

He said: “My goal is to make grassroots football a catalyst for empowerment and community growth by using sport as a tool to change young people’s lives.

“I want to bridge the gap between Africa and Europe, particularly Zimbabwe, and Europe because I’m so passionate about the talent that we have out there, but isn’t given an opportunity.

“I grew up in a very fortunate family and attended a private school with lots of facilities when I started playing football at a young age.

“I felt lucky because we had access to the newest football boots, and well looked-after grass to play on.

“But then one day we travelled a couple of hours away from town to face another academy and they didn’t have a pitch. Instead we played on sand and some of their players didn’t have any shoes.

“That was tough for me to understand because I always thought no matter where you come from and who you were, at the end of the day we all love football and there’s no difference between us.

“The sad realisation that we couldn’t all have the same resources to pursue a pathway into football stuck with me since that day.”  

Sebastien playing football with a child on sand pitch

Born in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital city, Sebastien played in different academies and eventually went abroad to play in Belgium and then the Czech Republic.

His hard work earned him a call-up to the Zimbabwe U17 national team, which sparked his initiative to build a football CV that he emailed to 3,000 clubs worldwide in hopes of a professional breakthrough.  

Sebastien received just one response from former Newcastle FC midfielder Matty Pattison who scouted him to play for Gateshead FC in 2019.

A seamless start to life in England snowballed into a series of personal triumphs, as he received a call-up to the Zimbabwe’s U20 national team where he made his debut at the 2020 COSAFA Tournament.

Sebastien making his U20 national team debut at the COSAFA Tournament against Lesotho in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa

Sebastien added: “From there, I went on to play for FC Kilchberg in Switzerland for two years, but I got injured and sat out for a year and it changed my life.

“During that year, I reflected on how much I could do back at home with the connections I had made and the knowledge I had acquired on my journey.

“That pushed me into my philanthropic path. Throughout the years I was away playing football around Europe, I was continuously donating kits, football boots and equipment back home.

“But I decided I could do much more for all the kids who wanted to pursue football just like I did, so I set up the SRS Foundation Zimbabwe.”

SRS Foundation Zimbabwe hosting U18 tournament with winners receiving brand new kits

An article looking into grassroots football in Zimbabwe explains that the collapse of sports grounds and recreational facilities in urban areas was impending before COVID-19 and is still in desperate need of development.

This has been further compounded by poor resource outlay from local authorities despite FIFA’s funding from the Goal Project.

The lack of opportunities is contributing to an increase in drug abuse among young people and the foundation seeks to tackle this by opening doors to sport.

Bill Leeroy Antonio is a professional footballer who plays as a forward for K.V. Mechelen in Belgium and Zimbabwe’s national team, emerging from the Dzivarasekwa Football Academy at a young age.

He said: “I wish for more children to achieve their dreams like I did because anything is possible with the right support.

“The SRS Foundation has been empowering grassroots football by giving everyone an opportunity and this will lead to discoveries of new talent to represent us at national level.”

Academy in Crowhill, Harare receiving donations

Sebastien explained that as well as a shortage of equipment such as goalposts, cones and boots, there is also a widespread lack of grassroots football knowledge.

To tackle this, he partnered up with the Harare Provinces Junior Development League, a football league set up by 32 coaches in high-density areas around the country.

After completing his training in refereeing, coaching and scouting in London, Sebastien built a close relationship with all the coaches, sharing his knowledge and guidance to improve the quality of coaching in Zimbabwe.

He set up workshops with speakers to raise awareness around drugs and teen pregnancies, to teach young people how to use sport as a vehicle to transform their lives.

Rueben Dauit, board member at the Harare Provinces Junior Development Football League said: “The foundation is very important for the future of young boys and girls as it provides support to those who cannot afford training equipment to better their lives and become role models in our communities.

“It is also helping fight drug abuse, crime and prostitution among the youths.”

The SRS Foundation Zimbabwe seeks to elevate grassroots football to the next level, with plans to build football grounds, pitches and astroturfs that can be accessible to all no matter a person’s background.

Sebastien is hopeful he can secure partnerships with clubs across England and provide every team in Zimbabwe with basic football resources such as footballs, bibs, kits, hurdles, and cones but most importantly – a choice.

Images courtesy of Sebastien Summerfield

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