The sight of Eric and Lizzy Rosen clad in the red, black and yellow colours of Motor Action Football Club, and waving to the performing Motor Action brass band at Rufaro Stadium, will remain one of the most colourful and memorable visions in Zimbabwean football.
In fact, Eric and Lizzy will go down in history as the most colourful couple ever to have graced not only the Zimbabwean football scene, but Zimbabwean sports as a whole. The fact that Eric is no longer with us, having passed away on January 24 at the age of 69 is too painful to swallow. Rosen sacrificed his motor spare parts business, spending hours everyday driving around the country for the sake of football.
He also spent a fortune in a sport which didn’t bring him any returns. Each year he looked after more than 30 football players, coaches and their families.
“Rosen had a passion for football. He invested a lot of money and time in the game without looking at the returns,” said former Motor Action and Zifa chief of protocol, Simeon Jamanda.
The former Arcadia United chairman is credited for discovering and supporting two Zimbabwe Soccer Stars of the Year — Clement Matawu in 2006 and Charles Sibanda in 2010. Matawu is today a proud owner of a motor vehicle given to him by Rosen as a reward for his inspired and capricious play in the Motor Action colours.
“I owe everything I have to Rosen. He treated me like his own son. He hated losing and as a team, we did our best to make him happy. He did not have a plaster in his hands,” said Matawu jokingly, implying that Rosen was a generous man.
Joey Antipas and Prince Matore, who won the 2015 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title as coaches of Chicken Inn, also first made their mark at Motor Action when they won the league title with the club in 2010. In fact, it was Rosen who plucked Matore from the dusty streets of Chegutu while turning out for Chegutu Pirates and gave him a chance as a defender at the Mighty Bulls. “Had it not been for Rosen, I would not have been where I am today. He encouraged me to take up coaching courses and here I am,” said Matore.
Rosen was a jovial figure who was always in high spirits. He threw jokes around and was the first to laugh at his own jokes.
“He was a jovial fellow. He was open-minded and loved his Pilsener lager. There were always more Pilseners at Motor Action Sports Club than any other beer. There was no way you could hear that Pilsener had run out,” mused Jamanda.
Staunch Motor Action supporter, Tendai Muchena, also remembered his association with Rosen.
“He never liked to be called Mudhara. He thought being called Mudhara was implying that he was too old when we were in fact referring to him as ‘Big Man’ since he was the one with the money,” said Muchena.
Muchena was one of those who used to get alcohol on Rosen’s account at Motor Action Sports Club.
It is no exaggeration to say that had it not been for Rosen, the Premier Soccer League would not be what it is today — a professionally run football league. Rosen was one of the founding Premier Soccer League board members and he even ran for the chairmanship of the premiership before losing to then CAPS United president Twine Phiri. In fact, the PSL assembly had so much faith in Rosen that he got the support of seven of the 16 premiership clubs for that 2010 PSL chairmanship post.
But after the relegation of his club from the premiership in 2013, Rosen was thrown backstage as if he had never been involved in football. All his contribution and the money he spent was soon forgotten.
Former Premier Soccer League chief executive officer Chris Sambo, who was chairman of Blackpool Football Club that sold their premiership franchaise to Rosen, said football drove Rosen to his death.
“Football contributed to the demise of Rosen. He invested millions of dollars into the game but in return he was thrown onto the streets after his team was relegated in 2013. Zimbabwean football is very ungrateful,” said Sambo.
Sambo says Rosen died a bitter man. “He died a very bitter man. He could not understand how the football people could treat him like that after all the sacrifices he made. Football got him broke, and then they threw him away,” said Sambo.
Sambo said there was need to amend the PSL constitution which prohibited people whose clubs are not in the league from holding positions in the board.
“We need to ensure that our constitution is amended so that knowledgeable people like Rosen continue to participate in football administration,” said Sambo, who claimed Rosen confided to him about his feelings on the treatment he received from football.
Former Shooting Stars executive committee member, Willard Madzivanyika said in sport people like Rosen were the real heroes.
“There are few people who sacrificed their money and time the way Rosen did. These are the real heroes of our sport. They need respect but unfortunately, there is no such respect in Zimbabwean sport,” said Madzivanyika.
Madzivanyika shares Sambo’s sentiments in as far as amending the PSL constitution is concerned. He says it is important to accommodate people who would have sacrificed their resources for the sake of football. He cited examples of people whose businesses have gone bust because of their contribution to football.
“It is rare to have people like Rosen. They sacrificed their personal financial resources to entertain the football public. These people do a lot and they need to be given the respect they deserve instead of just throwing them into the dustbin when they are broke,” said Madzivanyika.
There are a number of people, among them Beadle Musa Gwasira and John Chikochi of Lengthens, Douglas Tanyanyiwa of Douglas Warriors, Joel Serengedo of Shooting Stars, Lovemore Gijima Msindo of Fire Batteries, Arthur Chitunhu of Kiglon and Tanda Tavaruva of Masvingo United, who sacrificed their financial resources, only to find themselves kicked out of football when the going got tough. ‘Such people,” said Madzivanyika, “need to be honoured for their contribution. I hope, one day, PSL will realise that and honour Rosen for all he did for the league and for the game of football.”
However whatever the case may be, Rosen’s widow, Lizzy, should take comfort in the fact that her husband left a legacy for Zimbabwean football.