With Darlington Majonga
IT’S a big relief I had not bet my sweetheart on Manchester United beating AC Milan in the Champions League this week, but I still can’t believe my hard-earned $200 000 is
gone after trusting the Red Devils would conquer.
Colleague Godfrey Marawanyika doesn’t even sympathise with me and finds it imperative to remind me that next time I should not put my money on a “pregnant horse”.
It’s really been an action-packed week for soccer lovers in Zimbabwe and the world over, and I have no doubt many barely dropped a lid as they sat glued to television screens watching the world’s best club teams in action. From the Base in Harare’s city centre to the normally jammed VIP Sports Bar in Chitungwiza, thousands strained their necks to catch the action live on digital television.
It’s just unbelievable most Zimbabweans prefer to leave their wives at home alone or worse still risk getting to work late the following day while watching European soccer late into the night. Maybe this passion for European soccer pricked one fallen minister so much so that he decided Zimbabweans should not watch the world’s best football on national television.
But there’s no prize for guessing why so many Zimbabweans would rather spend say $50 000 on beer watching Arsenal against Chelsea on TV than spend a fifth of that watching live Buymore take on Monomotapa at Rufaro in Harare.
We all know how teams in our own top-flight league would wish to play Dynamos every week because no matter the Harare giants haven’t won the league championship for the last seven years, they still attract thousands of spectators — though nowhere near the “seven million” the club boasted a few years ago.
Just a flip back to last season we might all remember that Kwekwe Cables opted to play their “home” fixture away to Dynamos to maximise returns from gate-takings.
It’s such a sad situation that clearly shows us how seriously Zimbabwean soccer lovers now take what we are made to believe is top-flight football.
I might not have been born when Zimbabwe witnessed its best football era in the 1970s as claimed, but I have seen enough good football to declare we have been subjected to trash over the past few years.
It’s no wonder many reckoned Caps United raced to the premiership championship so easily not because they are good but because most of the other teams in the league did not show they were better than “boozers”.
The dearth of quality and competitiveness on our domestic season has whittled down interest in the sport that only a few sports journalists can name 11 players at any premiership club other than Caps, Highlanders and Dynamos.
It’s our prayer that the injection of meaningful sponsorship — though far from enough — in the premiership will save us from the boredom that we were subjected to last season.
We want to see More Moyo of Buymore or Dynamos striker Norman Maroto exhibiting the killer instinct we witness in Samuel Etoó or Wayne Rooney in front of goal. Yes, Zimbabwean players might not be as good but we don’t believe they can’t be as hungry for success.
Once the premiership is lively as anyone who cares would want, probably the national team’s fortunes will change for the better and witness capacity crowds thronging the National Sports Stadium during international fixtures.
Perhaps the Zimbabwe Football Association, perennially broke as much as it is bereft of ideas, might not have to resort to using the much smaller Rufaro which we are made to believe is easier to fill up and “create an intimidating atmosphere for visiting opponents”.
By the way, Zifa or whoever is responsible for the National Sports Stadium might as well approach Real Madrid for the turf they dug up at the Bernabeu — for new Dutch lawn — that we might lay at our own home of football.
Who knows, it might just inspire our players knowing they are treading on turf on which the great Zinedine Zidane has played. Maybe to those superstitious Raul and Ronaldo’s prowess in front of goal might just rub off on our own players.
On a more serious issue, it looks like Zifa is determined to fail the nation at a time we all expect to stop living a dream in as far as our flirtation on the international arena is concerned.
The soccer mother body appears not happy that its affiliate, the Premier Soccer League (PSL), has been hogging the limelight for good reasons — including making inroads into the purses of the corporate world.
We believe the PSL has done its homework as it seeks to run the top-flight league professionally, which is why Econet has jumped on board with its multi-billion-dollar sponsorship.
One week we hear Zifa arbitrarily reverses a PSL decision to ban stadiums that had been deemed not up to standard to host any premiership fixtures. That from a mother body that didn’t even know the goalposts at the National Sports Stadium are embarrassingly short of required measurements?
What’s wrong with standards? That’s where the professionalism we all want starts.
Next we read Zifa has gazetted prices for all franchises, should anyone wish to sell his/her team in all divisions affiliated to the mother body. As if that’s not enough, Zifa stipulates it will get 15% from the sale of any franchise.
Is it not that when franchises are sold clubs would have failed to meet the financial demands of football? Normally a club would want to set off huge debts, yet Zifa wants a chunk as big as 15%. And tell us the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority won’t move in as well.
Our worst fear now is that Zifa might as well want to dip its finger in the PSL cake because the umbrella association itself can’t attract the goodwill of the corporate word. We won’t say much but it might not be long before we hear Zifa also wants to benefit from TV rights of all premiership fixtures.
This is simply wrong. We don’t expect that from football administrators who should be busy showing us they are better than Leo Mugabe and all those who have run — or ruined — the show at 53 Livingstone Avenue.
Stop the power play now and synchronise the national teams’ calendar with PSL and Fifa fixtures. For once get serious and arrange meaningful friendlies for the Warriors — not the Malawi kind of fixtures that we will be played this weekend.
Zifa just has too much to do that has been written about ad nauseam. The worst thing is that chairman Rafiq Khan and his hangers-on know what’s expected of them too well, but it looks like they don’t give a damn whatever happens.
We can’t continue admiring other nations as if we can’t do it as well. We simply can’t continue living a dream. Period.