Ascent Soccer academy set to send Malawi talented female player to US

Talented female player, Lughano Nyondo’s footballing and academic talents has earned her an amazing scholarship to one of America’s finest academic institutions, Indian Mountain School, Connecticut, courtesy of the Lilongwe-based football academy, Ascent Soccer (formerly known as Chigoli Academy).

Talented Lughano Nyondo
Maguire (left) with Zobran (centre)
Indian Mountain School, Connecticut, USA

Lughano Nyondo is set to become the first Malawian young female to go for a double scholarship of academic studies and football development and will become the second Ascent player to head to the US on such a scholarship after Zobran Elias, who is on a three-year scholarship at one of America’s best academic and soccer institutions, the Taft School of Connecticut.

According to Ascent Academy’s founder, George Maguire, the one-year scholarship, worth around K46.5m (US$63,500) creates an incredible opportunity for Lughano, not only reach new heights academically, but to progress towards professional football in America, home to one of the best female leagues in the world.

“We are absolutely delighted by this development,” Maguire said. “Lughano has shown amazing character, work rate and strength to adapt and develop as quickly as she has in a variety of environments.

“Academically she has exceeded everyone’s expectations and as striker she has everything she needs to excel. She has the power, two good feet, intelligence, speed, timing and most importantly an eye for goal.

“Last year she was the Academy’s overall top scorer and to my mind, she has the potential to be the best female striker to emerge from Malawi since Tabitha Chawinga.

“As an Academy, we are so proud to see one of our female players graduate to the USA, and it’s our hope her story inspires other girls across Malawi, showing them power that football can have in generating opportunities for young players, leading to more amazing stories like Lughano and female participation in the sport.

“We encourage Football Association of Malawi to keep an eye on her progress in the US as she is, in our view, a national team player in the making,” Maguire said.

Lughano follows in the footsteps of Ascent’s first graduate, Zobran Elias who is currently studying and playing in the US having received a 3-year scholarship to Taft School, Connecticut, USA.

Maguire says since May 2018, Ascent has generated close to MK292 million (US$400,000) value in academic scholarships offered to its players who have graduated to American schools.

Since 2015 Ascent Soccer has assessed over 25,000 youth players from all over Malawi and selected an Academy of 65 built around three male squads and one female.

“Lughano was identified by Ascent Soccer at Katoto Ground in Mzuzu back in August 2017 as a 12-year-old, and since then her story has been nothing short of remarkable.

“Having grown up attending Nkhokwe Primary School in Mzuzu, Lughano moved to Lilongwe to join Ascent Soccer and studied at Philipina Boarding school where she finished top of her Form 1 class.

“Around this time, she was selected to be the subject of a documentary being produced about gifted female players from all over the world. This led to funding for her to attend Bishop Mackenzie International School, where Lughano blossomed academically.

“Ascent Soccer then promoted her to the Indian Mountain School who offered her this life-changing opportunity to attend their school next academic year starting in August.”

Ascent provides private education, advanced soccer coaching, character development and nutritional/medical support for its players and looks to create pathways into previously unattainable opportunities whilst creating a flow of highly gifted players to perform for Malawi national teams.

In July last year, Ascent players scored half of Malawi’s goals at Uunder-17 COSAFA in Mauritius and Ascent broke goal-scoring records by winning the Presidential U-17 League in Lilongwe.

In February, Maguire was honoured with Malawi Sport’s 2019 Non-Citizen of the Year award, honoring his outstanding contributions to the development of sports in the country.

Maguire further says this year Ascent embarked on nationwide scouting between April and August to recruit an Under-12 male squad whilst completing a female Under-17 squad.

Currently within the Academy are players from Mzuzu, Lilongwe, Dedza, Cape Maclear, Balaka, Blantyre and Zomba.

Zobran Elias‘ three-year scholarship is worth around K187.2 million (US$260,000) in tuition fees, also covers a part contribution at some of America’s top universities for four years, creating an incredible opportunity to not only reach new heights academically, but keep the option of professional football on the table with potential options into the MLS in the US through the draft system.

Zobran joined Ascent Soccer Academy in 2016, training with some of the best youth Malawian players, identified from all over the country.

The accolades that Ascent is receiving illustrates the immense respect and admiration Ascent has garnered domestically over the last four years for responsibly supporting players and communities.

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