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Receiver repays mother for giving him a chance

May 2, 2013


For three years, Munashe Masawi didn’t see his mother.

She was half a world away, trying to establish herself in a new land, where she hoped her children could one day hope for a better life.

It was with a broad smile that Masawi gave his mother the first piece of fruit from her ambitious labour, when he committed Wednesday to play football and study physical education at Queen’s University.

“Coming to Queen’s University is a huge step for my family,” the nattily attired Masawi said, “because Queen’s is considered a prestigious university in Canada and to be able to come here is a huge accomplishment for everyone in my family.”

Masawi’s mother came to Canada from Zimbabwe in 2002. He didn’t follow until three years later.

“Poverty was increasing in our country and the life expectancy was very slim,” he said. “She wanted me and my sister to have a meaningful life and she worked very hard to make it possible.”

Munashe’s sister, Michelle, 13, will be entering high school in the fall.

When he arrived in Canada seven years ago, North American-style football was not Masawi’s first athletic choice. “Football was very foreign to me,” he said. “My first sport was actually basketball when I came to Canada but I had limits in the sport.”

His height — he’s now 6-foot-1 — wasn’t going to do him any favours, Masawi concluded, and he said his skill development started to lag because he wasn’t able to attend instructional camps, as his contemporaries were.

“My mother recommended to me that I play football,” he said. “I found that all the skills I’d built up in basketball, some of them I’ve been able to transfer to football. It was a struggle … but I love a team-oriented sport. That appeals to my character.”

Masawi started playing the game in Grade 10 and has played three years of high school ball, as well as Ontario Varsity league football with the Oshawa Hawkeyes. Stepping into a university program is “a huge challenge,” he allows, but not a daunting one.

“It’s a hugely big step,” he said, “ but I plan to be the best and to be the best you have to train with the best. I think Queen’s is the right place to excel.

“My plan was to play in the CIS, regardless. It didn’t matter what school but from what I know, Queen’s has a history of good football. In 130 years, the history is quite rich. That appeals to me a lot. It tells me that this school will definitely help me get to the next level.”

Masawi, who will be studying physical and health education — with en eye to a career in medicine or occupational therapy — said he has long suspected he would wind up either at Queen’s or McGill.

“I always want to excel, it doesn’t matter what form, and Queen’s academics are really high, which I hold dearly.”

He said it was the interaction with the coaching staff that tipped the balance in favour of joining the Gaels.

“The impression I got when I came here was that they practised integrity, respect, honour and loyalty,” he said, “and those are the conditions I was looking for. It’s part of my character, too.”

There are many quality universities, however, and recruiters are trained to put their best foot forward. Masawi believes the Queen’s pitch was most sincere.

“In general you can tell if the coaches have interest in you, by the way they speak to you, by the body language, and also by how … they give you respect, how they respond when you give it back,” he said. “That’s what I saw, there was a connection there. I knew I could work with the coaches, back and forth, because the feeling was mutual.”


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