HomeSportCaps reduced to mere billboard

Caps reduced to mere billboard

Independent Sportview with Darlington Majonga

MOST of us could have been naïve to pronounce sanity had returned to domestic football after Caps United and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) agreed to “shelve”

their row over sponsorship when, in fact, the game has now fallen further into disrepute.

The compromise deal that will see Caps United resuming league action has not only bandaged a canker that will eat deep into the essence of football, but has inflated egos that will regrettably haunt the game for some time in this country.

The bone of contention has been that the PSL would not let the premiership champions give prominence or rather more mileage to Net*One, Caps United’s own bankroller, at the expense of the mobile company’s chief rival, Econet, the league’s new sponsor through its Buddie brand.

Whether it’s Caps United who inked their deal first or not is neither here nor there. Either the PSL or the Harare giants had to give in for the sake of football — the game that captivates millions the world over.

It was easy to judge someone or some people had finally used their brains, not feet, when we were told the PSL would let Caps United fulfil their league fixtures wearing Net*One’s Easycall brand logos. In turn, the defending champions would forfeit any prize monies from Econet, which will channel the rewards to charity.

On the surface it’s the best deal the wrangling parties could have come up with for the sake of soccer. But a closer look at the new deal leaves football the loser.

On the one hand, for Caps United to agree playing for nothing is tantamount to reducing the top-flight league to social soccer. And this from a club that fired Andy Hodges among others in a bid to streamline into a professionally run business?

On the other, the development is a mockery of the sponsorship Econet has committed to the premiership. Makepekepe are okay with gate-takings and the huge cash injection from Net*One and are just playing in the league for the title — or for fun rather.

It’s a serious indictment on the league and its new sponsors. Are prize monies that go with the league title and other individual player awards not meant to spur and motivate teams to give their all?

We wonder what would happen if all premiership teams were to get their own sponsors and play in the league for nothing. They could even field boozers as long as their sponsors get mileage!

To us, Caps United have been reduced to a mere billboard that will still give Net*One more mileage at the expense of Econet despite the forfeiture of prize monies and other benefits that include playing kits.

While Econet might seem the big loser in its marketing war with Net*One, football is likely to be the biggest victim.

As part of the compromise, Econet warned it would annul its sponsorship of the PSL if Caps United continued their deal with its rival next season. But there is absolutely no guarantee that the Harare giants will agree to rescind their contract with Net*One — which we were told runs through to 2007.

This is likely to leave the PSL in a quandary — with no sponsor in these hard times. One can imagine what would happen to small clubs like Sundowns, Chapungu and Lancashire Steel without a league sponsor on board.

This might mean there would be no more playing kits from Econet as well.

Looking at such repercussions, there is no doubt the majority of the PSL clubs would rather have Caps United booted out of the league. They view Makepekepe as selfish.

At the beginning of the fiasco anyone would have been inclined to feel sorry for Caps, but it seems there is more to the wrangle than meets the eye. Someone has been economic with the truth, and we are still not sure who signed a deal first between the PSL and Caps.

The whole farce smacks of a third force keen to sate political proclivity that surely should have no place in football. We all know Net*One is a state-controlled company, and there’s no prize for guessing why Communications permanent secretary Karikoga Kaseke made his presence felt in the saga.

It’s clear why Net*One left it until after Econet had announced its sponsorship package for the PSL for it to determine a package for Caps that would demean the league sponsor’s contribution.

It’s not even “ambush” marketing, but Net*One crossed the Rubicon knowing full well the power of its master and just to embarrass its rival. We all know what the powers-that-be think about Econet owner Strive Masiyiwa, and soccer being as big a sport as it is in Zimbabwe, they wouldn’t let him get all that mileage.

We are therefore made to assume Net*One did not enter the deal with Caps in good faith, or for the love of the game as they claim.

Caps owner Twine Phiri’s statement last weekend that he would rather have his club playing in a foreign league was unfortunate. It buttresses our fears that a third force is goading Phiri to scuttle Econet’s efforts to bankroll top-flight football.

If Twine could free himself from the political shenanigan he is intertwined in, maybe he could explain to us if he really has local football at heart. What benefit would it be for Caps to play in Botswana or Malawi, for instance? And Net*One would not get the mileage Phiri would die to give the mobile phone company.

This from the same guy who was shedding crocodile tears, saying Caps’ failure to play last week had deprived them of earnings to pay players?

You are just confusing all those who were sympathising with you, Phiri. This is a deal you have failed to handle. No one begrudges Caps for attracting such huge sponsorship, but it’s the way it was done that raises a stink.

While Caps resume league action, we hope the PSL and all concerned in the farce won’t forget to find a long-term and amicable solution. Remember you have just bandaged a canker that maggots won’t take long to colonise if it’s not properly nursed.

Meanwhile, one ardent follower of this column has begged me to include an unfortunate incident he claims to have witnessed at Rufaro Stadium during Dynamos’ match against Motor Action a fortnight ago.

Tawanda Paradza claims he saw a former Caps United captain and national team defender stealing a packet of biltong from an elderly vendor in the terraces. He says the alleged culprit’s teammates Tsungi Mudzamiri and Elton Chimedza also saw it happening — and probably shared the loot.

We won’t say much but there is no prize for guessing who the culprit might be. We just urge footballers to behave like role models that they are expected to be. Yamwa!

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