A foreign visitor to the National Sports Stadium on September 19 for the Chibuku Super Cup quarter-finals double header would have mistaken the gathering for a tournament involving teams from the lowest football leagues in the country.
Even boozers football does not attract such a pathetic crowd. Less than 1 000 people came to the giant stadium to witness the top teams battle for the ultimate knockout prize in Zimbabwean football.
The truth is that the decision to have a double header to attract a big crowd was spot on, but the choice of venue was completely wrong.
I am not sure of the reasons why PSL opted for the National Sports Stadium in the first place, but the truth is that their decision was a disaster.
Holding a double header at the National Sports Stadium involving three teams from outside Harare and for that matter Chicken Inn, Triangle, and Chapungu — and one from Harare in the form of little Harare City, did not make any sense.
The National Sports Stadium has proved that it is only ideal for domestic football when Caps United and Dynamos are involved — not any other team.
The only time that the stadium attracts a big crowd when the two Harare clubs are not involved is during State occasions when football is for free and when there are also other attractions to go along with the game of that day — such as musical entertainment from the likes of Jah Prayzah and Alick Macheso.
Some would want to argue that there was a counter attraction in the form of the Barclays English Premiership’s London derby between Chelsea and Arsenal, which was taking place at the same time as the first Chibuku Super Cup quarter-final between Chicken Inn and Chapungu. But that was not the case.
The Barclays English Premiership has always been there. Even when Manchester United are playing Liverpool and there is a game between FC Platinum and Triangle at Mandava Stadium at the same time, the domestic game has always attracted its own share of the crowd.
The truth is that for an attraction that featured the likes of Chicken Inn, Triangle and Chapungu, it would have been ideal to have the tournament either at Ascot Stadium in Gweru, Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo or even at Mandava Stadium in Zvishavane.
Ascot Stadium would have been a more central venue as it would also have cut the costs of travelling for three of the teams involved; Chicken Inn, Triangle, and Harare City, while there would have been no transport costs on the part of Chapungu.
PSL have always preached about taking the game to the people but in this instance they failed.They could have even taking the quarter-finals to Rimuka Stadium in Kadoma. That would have been better. Now they are licking wounds of that disastrous decision.
Not only did the clubs lose in gate takings, but it was also not a good portrayal of our football as the tournament was screened live on Supersport and the impression given to the whole of Africa was that Zimbabweans do not love their own football.
One thing that makes Zimbabwean football lose both entertainment and spectator value are decisions like these, and one hopes that this will not repeat itself in future.
Since the league’s creation through the efforts of the late Morrison Sifelani and Chris Sibanda in 1993, PSL has been without a lot of eye-catching blunders, but this time they got it all wrong.
However, there are semi-finals still to come and the Chibuku Super Cup will also return next year. In that respect, PSL should take lessons learnt from the National Sports Stadium debacle when planning for the future.
There are other potential sponsors waiting in the wings and none of them would want to see their games played in empty stadiums.
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