...as corporate world turn blind eye on local clubs
Clever Taperamoyo /
With other major cities enjoying representation in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL), this unfortunately is not the case with Masvingo which has for the past seven years failed to get representation in the country’s top flight league.
Many teams have come and gone with some of them already defunct, all of them having failed to make it into the premiership.
The city was home to Masvingo United popularly known as Una Una and FC Victoria with other clubs like Setheo FC, FC Don Bosco and Masvingo City all going down without making an impact.
Around the globe, football seems to be the most favoured game that can lure many supporters and followers, but in Zimbabwe and in particular Masvingo, the sectors suffers from lack of support.
Economic difficulties have forced companies to avoid sponsorship commitments, while others have closed shop, leaving poor clubs struggling to maintain themselves.
In Masvingo, the last club to play in the premier league was Una Una in 2011. The club was bankrolled by Petros Mutema of Mutema Brothers and a South African beverages company, Zimanzi.
They had taken over from bus company Mhunga, but they too were to soon pull out and a lawyer, Advocate Phillip Shumba supported the club for some time but his own partners let him down.
Shumba has sponsored various teams in the city including Masvingo United, FC Don Bosco and is the current Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Masvingo Pirates formerly Mucheke Pirates which is affectionately known as Dzinochekwa Baba.
Sharing his experience and opinion for local football, Shumba said the city needed to move towards modern soccer which demands consistent corporate sponsorship.
"In 2019 we must come up with one corporate-funded strong side because. It's high time we move towards modern football and for us to do that, we must have steady and consistent sponsorship because it is hard for an individual to sponsor a club consistently because he/she will get some family challenges along the way and they will have no option but to channel his resources towards his/her family," said Shumba.
He also said that many talented youngsters were going unnoticed and stressed the need to come up with a junior league where talent is identified and incorporated into big teams in order to stop player recycling.
"We have endless young talent in the city and these young players are playing social league football which is for the retired players. We must come up with a junior league to make it easy for coaches and scouts to identify young players because teams have been recycling old players and that is another reason why we are not competitive," Shumba said.
Going into 2019 season, many fans have pinned their hopes on Dzinochekwa Baba since Una Una have failed to make a mark after returning to Division 1 this past season and finishing in the bottom half. They even failed to fulfill other fixtures due to resource constraints.
Tapiwa Gatawa, a football fan, told TellZim News that teams should not just depend on individuals, saying councils and big companies had a role to play.
"What has killed our football is lack of sponsorship, we have raw talent but they are flocking to other paying clubs. Manica Diamonds came and played only one season and they won the premiership ticket because they bought quality players at the beginning of the season.
"We need at least our local authority to chip in just like what Harare City Council and Mutare City Council did in sponsoring football teams. We must not depend upon individuals. Last season, Benjaman Mazarire dumped Pirates during the course of the season and it affected their results at the end of the day," said Gatawa.
A myriad of challenges including lack of professionalism, poor match attendance, club’s failing to honor contractual obligations and lack of consistent funding are big problems facing local football.
In 2017, the then Local Government minister, Saviour Kasukuwere blocked Masvingo City Council from sponsoring Masvingo City FC, a move which others saw as a politically-motivated as the local council had more opposition than ruling party councillors.
Local football fans are able to name nearly all of the players from most of Europe's elite clubs and even give clear details about their careers, but ask them to name the teams of their country’s top clubs and see how uninterested they are.
Club proprietors, football federations and the Ministry of Sport are aware of the interest, talent and enthusiasm for domestic leagues, but they turn a blind eye to an area that can generate revenue.
Supporters in Masvingo remain addicted to football action from overseas, much to the detriment of local potential.
On match days, many football lovers often go to betting shops to watch foreign teams playing even tough local clubs could be playing in Muchekeke Stadium.
Instead of just paying a dollar to watch a Division 1 match at Mucheke Stadium, fans opt to spend $3 to $10 watching the European football on TV and this deals a blow to the quest to develop local football.
Local clubs continue losing substantial sponsorships and even big international media organisations have lost interest in acquiring television rights following the declining viewership.
Many players from Masvingo leave for Europe and other African countries as soon as they get the slightest opportunity as few of them wish to stay, play and entertain indefinable fans and receive little incentives in return.
Ovidy Karuru, Costa Nhamoinesu and Simba Sithole are some of the big names that the city prides itself in having produced but they have moved to bigger clubs elsewhere.
Faustino 'Heydays' Mugeji who has coached a number of clubs in Masvingo including Masvingo City and Pirates said time had come for everyone to come together and bring back premiership action to the city.
"This is the time we should all come together and form one strong team which competes for the premiership ticket but fans and the executive should not expect instant results from coaches because it takes a financially-motivated group of players and coaches to build a strong squad.
"Players and coaches are professionals who must be well-catered for if we are to see a team playing in the top flight league. We have seen Ngezi Platinum, FC Platinum and Manica Diamonds; clubs that are doing well because they are well-looked after,"said Mugeji.
Who then would want to remain a local player, when they are not considered professional and struggle to earn a living?
The expectations of local fans remain high despites their big interest and enthusiasm to see premiership action at Mucheke Stadium.