Exclusive Interview with the Executive Director of NYSDP, Isa Saidi

Name : Isa Saidi
Date of Birth : 24 December
Place of Birth : Kamativi Town – Zimbabwe
Position : Founder and Executive Director
Organization : National Youth Sports Development Platform

Can you provide a brief overview of your involvement in sports and what career path you have chosen?
My journey started in football, from my early days as a player at the primary and secondary levels, to a stint with Kadoma United FC in the second division. It was during this time that I recognized the abundance of untapped talent and chose to channel my efforts into the development of football.
Transitioning from being a player to contributing to the development of the sport is a significant decision that often requires a keen eye for talent, dedication, and a genuine passion for the game. By doing so, I realized that I could do more by contributing to the growth of football in my community but also assisted me in playing a crucial role in unearthing hidden potential.
To me grassroots development is the foundation of any sport, and my decision to focus on football development aligns with the idea that nurturing talent at this stage is essential for the overall progress of the game. Identifying and supporting young, aspiring players not only helps them fulfill their potential but also contributes to the broader success of the sport at higher levels.
You see, my experience, both as a player and now as a contributor to football development, provides a unique perspective that can inspire others to recognize the importance of grassroots efforts.

Can you provide a brief overview of your journey and how you got started in your sport?
As I previously mention, I started my sports engagement as a player in my early years and progressing through primary and secondary school, this developed into a deep passion for football.
But my calling seemed elsewhere as transitioned into coaching, particularly when I joined a women’s football team as an Assistant Coach.
The shift led to another transition as I moved from a coaching role to taking on administrative responsibilities as the Secretary General of Kadoma Junior Football in Zimbabwe.
I must say that being entrusted with the role of coaching the Provincial Women’s Football Team during the Presidential Cup was a testament to my capabilities and the trust that my peers placed in me. The opportunity to coach at the provincial level, gave me another calling as it highlighted that apart from being an administrative person, I could also make an impact on the development of women football.
Moving from player to coach, then to an administrative position, and eventually coaching at the provincial level is a unique and valuable trajectory. This growth in sports has opffered me diverse perspectives and experiences that is beneficial in my contribution to fostering the growth of sports at different levels.

Your journey is an inspiring example of how one’s love for the game can manifest in various impactful ways within the broader football community. What inspired you to pursue the chosen career path?
Look, growing up and seeing the amount of talent that was going to waste in my community, made me realise that I had a responsibility to make a difference in my town and i believe in the untapped talent it possessed, which speaks volumes about my passion for sports development. The realization that my town had immense potential but lacked the necessary platforms for young talents to be recognized is a common challenge in many communities.
You see, I had the opportunity to frequent travels to the capital city, Harare, as I grew up, and these is when I observed sports development, which provided me with valuable insights and inspiration. It’s not uncommon for individuals to be inspired by witnessing positive changes and advancements in other places. And this is the inspiration that led me to want to bring back to our town.
Am a big advocate of creating platforms for young people to showcase their skills. This offers young people a crucial step in nurturing and promoting sports at the grassroots level. By doing so, am happy to contribute not only to the physical well-being of the youth but also to the overall development of the community.
As the Late South Africa President Nelson Mandela said “Sports have the power to unite, inspire, and provide avenues for personal growth”, and for me am just doing my part in an efforts to have a lasting impact.

Were there any significant influences or role models that shaped your path?
Players like Norman Komani, Kaitano Tembo, and the late Watson Muhoni, who emerged from our community and represented the national team, not only bringing pride to our town but also served as role models for aspiring young talents.
These individuals achievements on the playing field highlighted the potential and talent that exist within our community. For me this was a testament to the impact that grassroots development can have on producing top-tier athletes who go on to make a mark at the national level. These individuals not only showcase the ability in our town for nurturing football talent but also contribute to the broader narrative of sports excellence in the country.
I must say that, as I transitioned from coaching to the administrative space, having a role model like the Harare City Council Sports Officer was significant. To this day, I believe that administrators play a vital role in shaping the structure and organization of sports, and having someone to look up to can provide valuable guidance and insights. Learning from the experiences and practices of successful sports administrators can undoubtedly contribute to ones efforts in enhancing sports development in your town.

Could you share one of the proudest moments in your career? What made it so special?
In 2005, a pivotal chapter unfolded, when I took the helm as the Sports Officer of the city. This opportunity gave me that chance to embarked on a transformative journey that not only fulfilled my dream but left an indelible mark on the community’s sporting legacy.
During this remarkable journey, with my guidance it saw the refurbishment of an unlikely space – a bar or shebeen. Through a strategic alliance with the Kadoma-UK Link, this establishment was transformed into a fully-furnished sports complex. This innovative approach not only repurposed a space but created a central hub for sports.
The foresight to recognize the potential of young talent led to the formation of an Under 15 Team that participated in the inaugural National Peter Ndlovu Trophy. The exposure provided in this national competition led to the discovery of talents like Cuthbert Malajila, demonstrating that providing opportunities for young athletes can lead to being scouted at the national level.
In a groundbreaking move, I initiated, organized and hosted the first-ever Under 15 Norman Komani Trophy. This initiative not only showcased local talent but also created a platform for young players to develop their skills and gain recognition within the community.
In an effort to broaden horizons and foster a spirit of sportsmanship, young people from Kadoma were taken for the first Olympic Run in Kariba. This experience went beyond the playing field, instilling values of teamwork, discipline, and personal achievement.
I also initiated and organized the first-ever boxing tournaments in Kadoma. This initiative not only provided a stage for local boxers but added a new dimension to the sports culture of the town.
All this led to my promotion to becoming the youngest Provincial Secretary General under the Sports and Recreation Commission.
I hosted the National Youth Education thru Sports National Festival in Kadoma and the Zimbabwe National Youth Games, which highlighted the city’s capability to organize and successfully execute major sporting events.
What sets this period apart is the realization of a strategic plan that not only focused on sports development but also attracted investors to Kadoma. It was during this time that the above events created a ripple effect that positively impacted the town’s economic and social landscape.

Could you share one of the most memorable highs? What made it special?
Obviously becoming the youngest Provincial Secretary General under Sports and Recreation Commission and successfully taking a lead in hosting the National Youth Education thru Sports National Festival in my town and Zimbabwe National Youth Games in my Province. What made it specially was putting my town on the sporting map and managed to lure investors to support sports
On the flip side, can you talk about a significant low point you faced and how you managed to overcome it?
Political environment took me down as my work was being politicized once I involved everyone regardless of political affiliations’

How did you grow as a result of these challenges?
I have grown to learn that an activity without challenges does not give a true reflection of my learning and I have seen every challenge as an opportunity
As you continue your journey in football development, your insights and understanding of the game will likely prove invaluable in shaping the future of aspiring players and the sport itself.

Can you share any key lessons or insights you’ve gained from your experiences, both positive and negative?
I have learn to take a challenge as it comes as well as turn every challenge to be an opportunity.
What advice would you give to others aspiring to excel in your field?
My advice is to be an opportunist and see every challenge as an opportunity. I also advise anyone to learn by making mistakes and make the right and informed connections and lastly never be afraid to fail.

How do you manage to find a balance between your career and personal life? Are there any specific strategies you employ?
My life is sport , my career is sports 4 development , my career and life share the same common denominator.
Who were some of your mentors or sources of inspiration? How did they influence your approach to sports and life?
At Sports Commission Zimbabwe it was Mrs Admire Chishiri
At Kadoma City Council it was Mr Exton Muzavazi
At SCORE Namibia , my Former Executive Director Stefan Howell and Raymond Vries
In Namibia
Jackie Shipanga , Dr Vetumbuavi Veii
and Currently Mathew Haikali and Isaak Hamata

Could you describe your typical daily routine if you have any?
I am a midnight worker , I have learnt to start my week on a Sunday and rest on Saturday if there is no event . Mostly At night from midnight to around 5am I brainstorm opportunities I can explore and write them down . In the morning is possible networking and research

What aspects of the sport do you enjoy the most? What keeps you motivated?
Seeing young people play sports

Are there any elements of the sport that you find particularly challenging or less enjoyable?
When office bearers pull strings to stop a program or project from happening because my robustness in doing things
Are there any specific challenges or aspects that you find particularly demanding or less enjoyable?
In Namibia being a victim of verbal xenophobe after trying to express a point to develop a society

How do you stay passionate and engaged in your work, even during tough times?
I have a believe that it my calling and I was called to serve.

What are your goals and aspirations for the future, both in your career and personally?
Both Careerwise and personally would like to see my organization be the leading harbor of sports 4 development in any society I will work in

How do you envision your legacy in your sport/profession?
NYSDP , my organisation being a force to recon interms of sports 4 development across the globe
What advice would you give to aspiring athletes or coaches who are just starting their journey?
See an opportunity, use the opportunity

Looking back, what would you say has been the most valuable experience or lesson that you’ve gained from your journey?
I have worked with people from different countries and dialects and have learnt to love and respect them the way they are
If you could go back in time, is there anything you would do differently in your career or life path
Not a lot but I would advocate more on community development through sports

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