MISSING out on promotion into the top flight league on the final day of the season has had a devastating effect on former premiership side Masvingo United.
A win away at Mutoko Traders stood between them and the “Promised Land” but, alas, a draw was what they managed, meaning Mutare City Rovers leapfrogged them in cruel fashion to snatch the sole ticket to topflight football.
Now, two months down the line, the 2005 Premier Soccer League runners’ up face a Zifa ban for taking football to court. They have also been deserted by their sponsor, have no board to run the club and are sinking in debt. The future of the club now lies in the hands of a few die-hard supporters and well-wishers.
As if all that were not enough, a new rival has emerged in the town in the form of Masvingo City Football Club which threatens to obliterate the name and life of the once proud Una Una.
It would be indeed sad to see a club like Masvingo United die just like that.
Una una was founded by business mogul Tanda Tavaruva in 1997 and has been a source of pride and unity for the football-crazy Masvingo community over the years.
For an average football lover in this community, football is Masvingo United and folks do not get tired of calling to mind the era when Una-Una brought the Zifa Unity Cup, The Independence Trophy and OK Woza Bhora Cup home.
Memories will never fade too of when Una una finished the season above Dynamos and Highlanders, second only to CAPS United. That story still makes much of the bar talk. But then history is history.
“It’s true that the club is in a very difficult state currently but we as the supporters are here to make sure that Masvingo United — which is a very big brand and commands a huge following here and abroad — survives,” Masvingo United Supporters Association chairman Lovemore Chevure told Standardsport.
Chevure said supporters around the country and abroad were in the process of mobilising resources to bring life back to their team.
“We are already in the process of mobilising resources so that training resumes as soon as possible as the team awaits the election of a board that will lead the team, as well as other issues to be resolved. We are very confident that with the help of corporates and individuals, we can bring back the glory days to Masvingo United. We are therefore appealing to well-wishers to assist us during this transitional period, either in kind or cash,” Chevure said.
Since the team was relegated in 2011, things have never been the same at the Masvingo-based club.
Founder Tavaruva — a well-known transport operator — pulled out sponsorship to the team in 2009 citing economic hardships and handed over the team to the Masvingo community.
In 2010, the team was sponsored by another Masvingo businessman Petros Mtema in partnership with Southern African drink manufacturer Zimanzi. However, Zimanzi pulled out of the deal under unclear circumstances, leaving Mutema to shoulder the financial burden alone.
Mutema did not last and lawyer Phillip Shumba took over. Shumba has, however, said he will take a sabbatical from football issues after last season’s disappointment — leaving Masvingo United without a sponsor.
It is believed, however, that Shumba has jumped ship to join new boys Masvingo City.
Just recently, Una-Una failed to pay $4 000 required by Zifa to have the status of Dylan Chivandire and Tafadzwa Mkahlera determined in a case in which they allege Eastern Region champions Mutare City used the two improperly registered players in a number of matches.
Add to that, Una Una has a $ 2 600 debt which they owe the Eastern Region in affiliation fees Standardsport tracked down the club’s secretary from last year, Moses Ncube, who also expressed, optimism that Masvingo United could be revamped into a formidable side that it used to be.
“It’s quite a big blow that we have lost our sponsor, Shumba who has financed this club for the past few years but we will surely pull through this difficult phase. This club means a lot to this community and I know without doubt, there are people out there who will come to our rescue,” he said.
Masvingo United ranks among the top four supported clubs in Zimbabwe after Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United, according to statistics measured by amounts realised from gate-takings.
During its time in the premier league, Una-Una scooped various accolades under the guidance of Luke Masomere — who remains the best coach to have ever coached the club.
Masomere guided Masvingo United to a second-place finish in the league in the 2005 season and won three major cup competitions in 2002 up to 2007.
They won the Zifa Unity Cup twice in 2002 and 2005 and also won the Zimbabwe Independence Trophy, as well as the coveted OK Woza Bhora Cup in 2005
Masvingo United has produced a number of top footballers plying their trade abroad namely Costa Nhamoinesu, Ovid Karuru and Progress Musepa, just to mention a few.
The team has maintained a dominant presence in Masvingo despite the fact that various clubs have sprouted up in the province.
Victoria FC managed to play in the PSL in 2010 but was relegated the same year.
Gutu Leopards, Don Bosco, Setheo, Maningi FC all went as far as Division One, but all have since disappeared from the football radar.
The formation of another direct rival, Masvingo City, dubbed the “rebels” is also set to taste the resolve of Una Una in the coming few seasons but first the club needs to come out of its current crisis.
Masvingo City FC, in 2015 competed in the Zifa Eastern Region Division One league and finished seventh on the log standings under the guidance of Faustino Mugeji, a former Masvingo United player.