insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
THERE is good news coming from the Cranborne Bullets camp that they intend to use Rudhaka Stadium in Marondera as their home ground for the 2020/21 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season.
The decision by the Cranborne Bullets leadership does not only make financial sense, but also helps in spreading the game of football to other parts of Zimbabwe outside Harare and Bulawayo.
Football is played to entertain the fans and it does not make any sense to have Cranborne Bullets play in Harare in front of 46 people or less when they can attract as many as 3 000 people in Marondera.
The truth is that Harare is flooded with teams — Black Rhinos, Caps United, Cranborne Bullets, Dynamos, Harare City, Herentals and Yadah — but has few stadiums and few fans to share, and the best would be for Cranborne Bullets to move out.
In fact, for small teams, playing in small towns has a lot of advantages, one of which is that they stand to attract bigger crowds than in the big cities where they compete for fans with the big boys like Caps United, Dynamos and Highlanders.
Most of the clubs survive on gate takings and the bigger the crowds, the more the revenue, and it is worth taking the risk by taking football to Marondera and get $46 000 in return, than keeping the game in Harare and amass $460.
It is good to see that the game is now spreading its wings to all the four corners of the country with Tenax in Mutare, Hwahwa in Gweru, ZPC in Kariba, Triangle in Chiredzi, Manica Diamonds in Rusape, Ngezi Platinum Stars in Mhondoro-Ngezi, FC Platinum in Zvishavane and now Cranborne Bullets going to Marondera, and Black Rhinos off to Bindura.
Although not by design, but in the cold light of the day, most of the cities in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain have a club in the Premiership or Division One, which is heavily supported by its own community.
Examples are small clubs like Brighton, Sheffield United and Norwich City in England, Cologne and Mainz in Germany, Granada, Leganes, and Alavés in Spain, Genoa, Leece, and Verona in Italy, as well as Bordeaux, Nantes and Reims in France, who command massive support from their own communities.
Sadly, though, the communities in this part of the world have not been very supportive of their own clubs, with the likes of Tanganda in Mutare, Masvingo United and Eiffel Flats in Kadoma having been blown away from top-flight football by their own people.
Although in terms of crowd attendances these clubs did not suffer much, it was in moral support where they lacked as the community gave its support to visiting teams instead of their own homegrown talent.
Even up to now, the small-town football crowd tends to cheer popular visiting teams, forgetting that they would lose the opportunity to watch top-flight football should their resident club get relegated.
This has also helped to chase away homegrown talent to outside community teams because they see something good in those teams because of the support they get within the community they live.
This behaviour from the fans should come to an end. They should begin to give support to the team on their doorsteps — whether it is there by relocation or by right.
The clubs themselves can also help the situation by fighting to impose their presence in the community. This, Cranborne Bullets, Black Rhinos, Manica Diamonds and Tenax, can only do through their performance on the field of play.
The more they play well — the more they win matches — and the more they win trophies, would be the more they would capture the support of the public within the community, which they call their home.
For example, FC Platinum were not all that popular when they came into the Premiership, but are now competing with Caps United in their support base, just behind Dynamos and Highlanders.
Their support base has grown rapidly not only because of the three Castle Lager Premier Soccer League titles and the Chibuku Super Cup, but also through their attractive displays on the field of play.
FC Platinum have also been consistent, something that the fans adore. This demands that teams based in small towns maintain their places in the Premiership so that they earn some form of respectability from within the same community.
The more they avoid relegation and the longer they stay in the Premiership, the more sympathy they get along the way and the more following they accumulate.
So far, it is so good as football is spreading its wings to all the four corners of the country. More top clubs are sacrificing facing hostile crowds to mount their bases in small towns where the majority are Caps United, Dynamos or Highlanders fans.
However, it would be better to have more and more teams earning promotion into the Premiership from their own communities.
Instead of a Harare-based team using Rimuka Stadium in Kadoma, there should, in fact, be a team from Kadoma or Chegutu in the Premiership to use Rimuka Stadium.
There is also no need for a team from Gweru to use Mucheke Stadium in Masvingo, but instead, it should be a Premiership team from within Masvingo itself that should use the facility.
It is perhaps too much to expect change to happen in that direction overnight, but that should be the real story or the direction of our football.
What a day it would be to have teams from Masvingo, Kwekwe, Marondera, Chitungwiza and Gwanda, for example, playing in the Premiership, and with their whole communities behind them.
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