Independent Sportview By Darlington Majonga
ALL things being normal, Caps United’s decision to participate in an invitational tournament in Malawi last weekend can only be as scandalous as the Premier Soccer League’s endorsement of
Everything being equal, the defending league champions’ decision to field fringe players in their premiership match against Monomotapa while the regulars gallivanted to Blantyre should rank as a serious indictment of domestic football — whichever way one looks at it.
Nothing being anomalous, Caps would be in the dock for disparaging Zimbabwe’s top-flight league by fielding a weak side while taking the regulars for a safari in the midst of the season.
Imagine the conspiracy theories if Monomotapa were chasing the championship or facing relegation from the premiership!
In mitigation, Caps proprietor Twine Phiri would probably harp about his grand plan to build a large formidable squad that would dominate the premiership for ages to come — forget it’s the same league he has flagrantly ridiculed before.
Of course Phiri must have learnt a lesson after several key players deserted to the United Kingdom where he had gone for a money-game that almost cost Caps the premiership title last year.
So the cant about fortifying the team would be believable, and the performance of the second-string side against Monomotapa would surely defuse any doubts about Phiri’s intentions.
We thought Caps would have taken a development side of youths to Malawi if the future were their priority.
For all the good reasons Phiri saw it fit to go to Malawi, he must be reminded that he short-changed fans and spectators alike who with their hard-earned money contribute to the upkeep of Makepekepe.
Fair and fine, Caps can field whoever they want — even when there is no invitational tournament in Malawi — but supporters feel cheated when their team deliberately denies them a chance to watch the better players at their disposal.
The message to Caps fans is apparently not that their team is strong enough to field two competitive sides at the same time. They are being told, we are afraid, that their team does not take the premiership seriously and has given up hope of retaining the championship.
Obviously, there are those who might want to remind us that Caps have never taken the PSL seriously.
Yes, we remember Phiri in the heat of a sponsorship wrangle with the PSL last year threatened to export his side to play in South Africa as long as his interests were safeguarded.
Of course, we need not be reminded that Caps were largely to blame for the plight the PSL finds itself in today after the Harare side shooed away Econet’s benevolence.
Well, we can only heartily applaud Phiri for keeping his club afloat in an economy teetering on the verge of collapse. Admittedly, it would be shameful to close the eyes to Phiri’s passionate efforts to keep us entertained and writing about Caps.
But it worries us when Phiri decides to put his honour at stake by saying things that at worst smack of insincerity on his part and at worst sound like propaganda.
“People will tell you that we came here (Malawi) for the money but we know that we came here to further develop our links with the other teams because football is now a global game and you can’t survive on your own,” Phiri was quoted as saying in a local paper.
He’s right that “you can’t survive on your own” — and the faster Phiri fully develops his Caps brand and probably list on the stock exchange the better.
But that Caps did not go to Malawi for money sounds suspicious if events at the club since the beginning of the season are anything to go by.
This coming from a man who a few months ago had to stage-manage a press conference to announce a “survival package” for his club after player revolts over unpaid bonuses and allowances?
Without sounding uncouth, that episode was akin to a father who has been falling short in the upkeep of his children harping to the whole world the day he finally manages to buy them bread.
That $5 billion — now $5 million after Giden Gn (we hear he has lopped the zeros or is it Os on his name) did his miracle — didn’t last even two weeks if we are to believe Zimbabwe’s vicious inflation rate.
Anyway, we are in no way saying clubs should not turn around. But if Phiri has managed to extricate his club from the financial mess that he can now afford a trip to Malawi to “prepare for the future” in so short a time, we propose him for the next PSL chairman.
As Caps prepare to take on Masvingo on Sunday, we don’t know what lessons on the field from Malawi they will exhibit at Mucheke. But we know their first-team players might still be worn out after a gruelling road trip to and fro Blantyre.
Of course Phiri should count himself lucky because Malawi is not Britain where menial jobs bring better returns than a hollow celebrity status as a footballer in Zimbabwe. Otherwise he could be counting the costs of a farcical excursion again.
But after all is said, who is to blame Caps when the people who are supposed to safeguard the integrity of the PSL are party to the travesty?
Think of prospective PSL sponsors weighing how the league executives themselves don’t even take their “product” seriously. It’s really a shame that the PSL allowed Caps to travel to a meaningless tournament as long as they fulfilled their league fixture. Even if it meant the academy side playing before a handful of spectators?
Thank goodness the Caps reserves did not give Monomotapa their 1-0 victory on a silver platter.
Maybe what should be worrying us is what really impelled Caps to overlook the importance of our sponsor-less premiership, not why Phiri did it.
It’s the hardships we are all facing as Zimbabweans. Period.
No Zimbabwean would miss — Caps included — an opportunity to rake in extra cents into their pocket even if it’s at the expense of, for example, the league championship.
That’s why Caps and Highlanders risked losing their players — which they sadly did — by flying to the UK for a useless exhibition match.
It’s horrendous that the government remains committed and unchallenged in its calling to pauperise us. We have no respite from incessant price increases, and the harder our lives get the more sport becomes meaningless to our survival.
It’s sad that political intransigence and economic mismanagement are inexorably threatening sport — which ironically should relieve us from the daily grindings of poverty.
Thanks to our rulers, the PSL has been reduced to a sham and luring sponsors has become a difficult task not because of something we don’t know.
Can anyone convince anyone to bankroll the PSL? What’s in it for them?
Will anyone in his right senses stand up and blame Phiri for relegating the importance of the premiership?
Aah, you can do what you want with Caps, which in any case is your own team, Mr Phiri. It’s Zimbabwe stupid!