‘Never forget where you’re from’: Darlington Murasiranwa gives back to Zimbabwe community that raised him

Darlington Murasiranwa had a year to remember both on and off the pitch in 2022. 

On the pitch, the young goalkeeper’s FC Edmonton side battled week in and week out – not letting their well-documented off-field situation deter them from giving everything they could on the pitch. It was a year without expectations – where personal growth was more important than making the playoffs.

It was nicknamed FC Opportunity by head coach Alan Koch for a reason.

“It started off with me not playing much, but at the end of the season came my opportunity and I felt like I grabbed it,” Murasiranwa told “I matured my game too, because of the situation we’re going through, and just having a chip on my shoulder. 

“I matured in my game as the person who is able to take responsibilities at a young age, and just having to be able to step up and try my best to get the team three points, or get something.”

It’s off the pitch where Murasiranwa’s willingness to step up and take on responsibility really shines through. This off-season, the free agent goalkeeper travelled to his native Zimbabwe, looking to make a difference in communities that matter a lot to him.

His first time back in a decade, the 21-year-old – 20 at the time of his trip – donated Eddies kits and soccer equipment to a community where many people don’t have those things. Murasiranwa mentions that many of the children were playing barefoot.

In photos posted to his Instagram account in December, a dirt pitch can be seen, with wooden branches attached to one another to form a goal. It’s far from the state-of-the-art pitches in some of the professional leagues around the world, but those who play on it are just as passionate as anybody about the Beautiful Game. 


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“Soccer there is huge, it’s crazy,” said Murasiranwa. “When the Premier League is playing everyone is talking about it, it’s in the newspapers, and these guys are trying to watch – it’s huge over there.

“Me being able to go there and express my soccer talent, and growing up there and playing there… It felt like a restart. Football brings people together, and it does bring people together over there too.”

The idea to donate some items came after conversations with his father, as well as FC Edmonton’s head coach Alan Koch and clubhouse and merchandise manager Alex Mejia.

“I had a talk with my dad, I remember him just making fun of me, like ‘You’ve been gone for 10 years… what are you bringing back?’,” Murasiranwa said with a smile.  “I’m trying to order a bulk of jerseys and cleats and balls and then trying to bring it back home to the village he grew up in. It’s in my heart, I want to help out over there.

“Shoutout to Alex Mejia. On the last day, I was telling him about my story and what I wanted to do, and he was like ‘You know what, man? I’m glad to help you out, so I’ll give you whatever you need’. I called my dad, [and told him] we don’t have to worry about the bulk, Alex hooked it up. I thanked him a lot, I knew it was going to be huge for the guys back home.”

Murasiranwa carried all of the gear with him in suitcases, travelling to England first before heading to Zimbabwe later in his off-season break.

“It was suitcases, I had to spend a couple bucks,” he said with a laugh. “Two suitcases full of jerseys, and I had a couple of soccer balls I used to use here. I packed it all up and I was like ‘I’m out of here, taking it all back home’.”

He began his break in England, where he trained with non-League club Shepshed Dynamo as well as with some friends. He spent some time travelling to Spain, Portugal, France, and the Netherlands, and while plans to also visit Germany and Sweden were thwarted by some sickness, the trip to Zimbabwe was the one he was looking forward to most.

“It was 10 years since I was back,” he said. “I was born there and grew up in South Africa, but after the loss of my older brother, I went to visit his grave (in Zimbabwe) in 2011-2012 I believe, and then went back to South Africa, and then left.”

He visited two places while he was there: the small town where his father is from – and where he donated the equipment – and a larger one where his grandmother lives.

Seeing the impact he left on those people, and seeing the kind of positive change he can make in communities like that, have given Murasiranwa an itch to continue his charitable efforts.

“I can’t even explain it, I thought it would be so small, but the reactions they had, it was like they won a Nobel Prize,” he reflected. “Some guys were telling their moms and everyone in the whole community. It made me feel happy. My dad was like, ‘This is good enough’, and I was like, ‘No, I have to add more, I have to add more!’. 

“He went there first and I was calling him like ‘Are you sure this is good enough?’ and he was like ‘Trust me, they’re going to be happy’, and that was the same reaction. It was the best thing in the world.”

People back in Canada praised his efforts as well. 

“I got kind messages from Alan and friends, family,” he said. “We have a family group chat and everyone was texting me saying what you did was great. It just motivated me to keep trying to start my own project over there, and try to help out the guys over there. 

“There’s a lot of talent that I saw when I was training with them and playing some games with them.”

Darlington Murasiranwa makes a save against Cavalry FC. Aug 15, 2021 Tony Lewis/CPL

Next, as he mentioned, Murasiranwa wants to do even more. This year, he and his brother have the goal of collecting gently used clothes and soccer equipment and bringing it back with them for another visit. 

He recalled again seeing people playing barefoot, and the smiles on their faces as they kicked their new footballs and pulled on the FC Edmonton kits. He believes he can continue to help where he can, and he doesn’t forget that that’s where he came from.

“Some of us, that’s how we grew up, and it’s always good to give back to where you came from, and never forget where you’re from,” he said. “I’m lucky enough to still know my roots and my family, even though I hadn’t been there for 10 years. My family, I still know the culture, they know where I’m from. It’s really important to give back to those that are less fortunate, because you never know, you can light up their day, and some of them can even get motivated to just keep pushing with their dreams.

“One of the guys came up to me and he was telling me he was around my age, and he was like: ‘I love soccer, but I had a rough turn in my life. I got a kid early and started drinking a lot. Just you being here and seeing you grow up, seeing you do this, it motivates me to keep pushing and keep dreaming big and I used that as a motivation every single day.’”

In addition to helping people, just being back in the country of his birth was a rewarding experience, and a long overdue one. 

As mentioned, it had been about a decade since his last time on Zimbabwean soil, and he made sure to soak it all in while he was there.

“Seeing my family, seeing my old friends that I left when I was a kid, my grandma… when I grew up she was literally my mom,” Murasiranwa said. “[I was] seeing her, and then seeing my late grandma’s grave, my late older brother’s grave too… that was beautiful. 

“Just being able to see nice scenery was beautiful, and it was also summer there, so I had to escape Canada for a bit, it was wonderful.”

One of the highlights of his trip, as scary as it was at the time, was running away from a bull. A cousin dared him to get close to it, while standing from a distance and recording on his phone.

“He was telling me ‘Trust me, it’s the best thing in the world, just try to feel it up, just rub it, he won’t do anything’,” Murasiranwa recalled with a smile. “I went close and then said ‘Wait… why is it coming?’ and I wasn’t going to just stand here so I ran away and he was laughing.”

It was a trip a decade in the making, with memories that will last a lifetime. 

“Last time I visited I was still young. I can barely remember, but when I was there it was like I wasn’t gone for that long.”