HARARE – Many sporty young white Zimbabweans endeavour to be the next Andy Flower on the cricket field, the next Nick Price on the golf course, the next Kirsty Coventry in the swimming pool.

20-year-old Sebastien Summerfield has however taken a different path. The Switzerland-based full-back has a burning ambition to make history by becoming the first white footballer to feature for Zimbabwe in over two decades, since the legendary former Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar hung his gloves.

Football is steadily becoming popular in Zimbabwe’s prestigious private schools, making its way into the psyche of boys from such privileged backgrounds.

In Summerfield’s case, though, his particular choice of school was perhaps the head-start he needed in football. He was educated at the multicultural Harare International School in the Zimbabwean capital city.

Whilst not big on the disciplines that forms part of the culture of Zimbabwe’s traditional private schools – rugby, cricket, hockey, water-sports and others – the international school’s multinational enrolment gives its sporting codes a more global look.

So youngsters like Summerfield were exposed to such “recreational sports” as American football and Ultimate Frisbee then mainstream ones like football, basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, athletics and others.

But it was football that made lasting impression on the Harare-born utility player, who first came onto the limelight as a left-back.

“I started playing football when I was very young, since I can remember I have been kicking a ball,” Summerfield tells SportsCast whilst back home in Harare for the off-season break.

“I think I was about six years old, at Harare International School, where I was. There was an academy as well, at Celebration Centre, and I was part of it. Ever since I’ve been playing football. So I started playing really competitively when I was aged 12, with coach (former Zimbabwe international defender) Alan Johnson at Harare International School, where he picked me for his AJ Academy, where I was playing above my age groups. Then I went to Legends Academy in Eastlea (Harare) with coach Farai Dhliwayo, and I was constantly playing there. So I have always had football in my life. There was a point when I was 16 that I decided that football is what I wanted to carry on with. At Harare International School I was playing many sports and I was captain for basketball and football. So I chose football because that was my first memory.”

Summerfield, who turns out for Zurich’s FC Kilchberg-Rüschlikon in the second-tier of Switzerland’s regional-based domestic game, has already represented Zimbabwe at Under-20 level in a Southern African competition.

Sebastien Summerfield in training at his Zurich club.

The dream now is to move a step up and gain selection into the senior side, the Warriors, a team he believes is heavily underrated in world football.

“For me, Zim is part of my blood and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t because of the country,” Summerfield says.

“The next step is obviously the senior Warriors team but for now there are a group of boys next to none. This group will take us to the 2026 World Cup. We have a group of boys that are shining, who are really killing it in the (English) Premier League, La Liga, French Ligue 1, we even have many players in America as well and I feel like we have a great generation. We really need to come together as a nation with this generation. This could be our chance and we could be the next Morocco. I feel like a lot of people down play Zim. We have some of the best players ever, it’s just unseen talent.”

Summerfield wasn’t born yet when the eccentric ex-Liverpool goalie Grobbelaar played his last international match for Zimbabwe in 1998.

Since then, no white person has featured for Zimbabwe in football at full international level. And for Summerfield, the colour of his skin has never been an issue in his football career, and he would like to see greater integration in Zimbabwe.

“For me, football has no race, no religion and no ethnic background,” remarks Summerfield.

“Who you are, where you are from, you can play football. Football unites people, football brings people together. When people ask me the question ‘how did you not play cricket or rugby?’, for me it did not matter because when I went onto the pitch I didn’t see my teammates or opponents as different colours. I saw other people who love the sport, so it never mattered how come I was the only person of my colour to play the game. I want to see more and more people playing for the reason that they love the sport, not because their background is pushing them towards a specific sport than the other. I want to encourage everybody to play, no matter if you are white, black or another colour. I doesn’t matter. For me, football is unity. When the Warriors are playing, you see unity. When they went to Afcon, the whole country united together. For me, football is the one sport that really unites the whole nation.”

Summerfield had a satisfactory 2022 season with FC Kilchberg-Rüschlikon, and he credits this to a switch of positions.

“This past season was instrumental for me as I got to start for my club,” he says.

“The way I broke through is I moved positions from left-back, my coach asked me to shift from left-back. And I’m a player who doesn’t shy away from challenges. As a football player you have to adapt. It’s actually important for a player to do that, say changing from playing left-back to right wing, or whatever. Because you don’t where that leads you too.”

Summerfield grew up surrounded by football, and he has had quite a few role models from a very young age.

“I have so many heroes I look up to internationally. Leo Messi, what he does with the ball is incredible,” he says.

“I have so much respect for Cristiano Ronaldo as well, who is probably one of the greatest of all time. But Messi is the best ever, I don’t think anyone is better. Yesteryear greats like Johan Cruyff, I can relate with how he played the game. Jordan Henderson, just because of how he works really hard. I see myself in him a little bit, I’m not the most talented, but I can work as hard. He (Henderson) is a player that works, works and works. Also Marvelous Nakamba, and in the past Peter Ndlovu and Benjani Mwaruwari. These are pioneers of Zimbabwean football in terms of what they achieved, having such an impact in the Premier League.”


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