Neither the scorching heat that usually sees temperatures peaking at 40 degrees Celsius in the resort town of Kariba nor the anxiety brought about by fears that the Zimbabwe Power Company might be contemplating dropping the ZPC Kariba FC project has dampened the expectant mood that has engulfed the local community.
A $750 000 new Nyamhunga Stadium, set to hold a capacity crowd of 8 000 when complete, is under construction, and local business entrepreneurs are waiting in the wings to pounce on the spin-offs, while ZPC Kariba head coach Saul Chaminuka is putting final touches to his machine ahead of the 2014 Premiership season.
The historic promotion of ZPC Kariba into the top-flight league at the end of last year has illuminated the small town, as the community eagerly awaits the day big teams like Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United will play 90 minutes in a refurbished Nyamhunga.
However, fear is slowly creeping into the minds of the people of Kariba who are in pensive mood as their team is yet to affiliate with the PSL and, as the league’s chief executive officer, Kenny Ndebele, reiterated yesterday, ZPC Kariba FC have until tomorrow to finalise their registration.
Zimbabwe Power Company spokesperson Fadzai Chisveto would not shed light yesterday, promising to furnish this newspaper with more details this week.
“I was out of town, so I think I will be in a position to furnish you with details, say, on Monday,” said Chisveto.
The worst fear among the locals is a repeat of another “Hippo Valley debacle” where the owners Tongaat Hullet — who also sponsor Triangle FC — dropped the newly promoted team from their budget, citing financial constraints.
Various theories are being thrown around: the layman in the streets of Nyamhunga or Mahombekombe townships is in the dark, while businessmen who had already begun investing in anticipation of a business boom fear they could lose out if it turns out that ZPC are withdrawing their sponsorship of the team.
“The worst part of it is that the leadership of the team is not updating us; we are only hearing rumours that we might fail to see Premiership football in Kariba after all.
“Morale is low, I tell you. Thousands of supporters used to come here to watch the team train, but they have since stopped following the outbreak of the news,” a dejected Lovemore Gomo, leader of the supporters’ association, lamented as he watched last Thursday’s session at Chaminuka Stadium.
To many locals, the promotion of ZPC Kariba FC is not only about Premiership football coming to the Mashonaland West town for the first time in history, it is actually a matter of life for them as they are looking into the horizon and seeing the business opportunities looming.
The dwindling number of foreign tourists visiting the town, which boasts one of Africa’s largest lakes, has shifted the focus to the promotion of local tourism and the Kariba Municipality is predicting a huge boom will be triggered by the coming of top-flight soccer.
From the fishing sector and hospitality industry to both the transport and entertainment service providers, fruitful business has already been forecast.
“To us, the coming of PSL here probably ranks as the next biggest thing ever to happen in Kariba after the dam wall.
“Local tourism will be boosted immensely as fans accompanying their teams here will most probably spend a dollar or two at the various tourist attractions we have in Kariba.
“Even the residents stand to benefit at the end of the day because more money into the town also means an improvement of services,” said Milton Tadzembwa, a lodge owner in Nyamhunga, who has begun expanding his infrastructure in anticipation.
It will also mean more customers for a person like Wise Ushe who has survived on selling fish for the past 14 years.
“Obviously our sales will get a massive boost as thousands of people will come from all over Zimbabwe to watch soccer and also buy our high-quality fish at the same time.
“In the event that the powers that be deny us the chance to host PSL teams here, then it will be a shattered dream indeed,” said the middle-aged Ushe as he showcased his large breams.
Officials at Kariba Municipality, which is co-funding the construction of a new state-of-the-art Nyamhunga Stadium with ZPC, are confident the project will be complete in a month’s time.
District director for administration Richard Kamhoti, the man in charge of the project, confirmed that the stadium will meet Premiership standards by mid-April.
Should ZPC affiliate tomorrow, they will initially use Rufaro Stadium in Harare as their home ground — almost 400 kilometres away from their base.
“We are closely guided by the stadium specifications we got from the PSL and, as you saw, the laying of the new turf, building of dressing rooms, construction of the perimeter wall and VIP toilets is underway.
“We are getting the support from ZPC and the project is valued at around $750 000. Our hope is to have the stadium up and about by April 15,” said Kamhoti.
ZPC Kariba coach Saul Chaminuka refused to comment on the developments, preferring to concentrate on his job of preparing the team for its debut Premiership season.
Newly recruited seasoned players Norman Togara, Limited Chikafa, David Rediyoni, Obey Mwerahari, Tawanda Munyanduri, Tawanda Nyamandwe and old-horse Pride Tafirenyika are all geared up for the upcoming season.
“We are almost ready for the season and, as you can see, all the players are reaching 100% match fitness levels,” said the soft-spoken Chaminuka.
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