To be or not to be at Rufaro is a lingering question that pops up each time a home fixture is coming up for our beloved senior national team.
Burundi are in town later this week and time is running out for Zifa to make up their minds on whether or not they will pay heed to the wishes of the players and the voice of the supporters and pencil in the old Mbare venue to stage the do-or-die clash.
I believe the mother body have no much choice but to bow in to our demands and forego the otherwise spacious National Sports Stadium that has in the recent past utterly failed to inspire our flag-bearers.
The beleagured association will do themselves a huge favour with this climbdown as it will no doubt endear them to Warriors fans and erase sad memories of many howlers the Zifa office has committed in the administration of the game.
After the lacklustre draw with Cape Verde and humiliating loss to Guinea at the giant facility, the NSS has proved to be no hunting ground for the Warriors necessitating the call for
Rufaro’s reinstatement where the boys are still to lose since the artificial turf was laid in 2008.
The impeccable record at Rufaro is down to several factors, some of which are psychological while some are physical. The proximity of the pitch to the supporters creates an intimidating atmosphere for the opponents while the boys have also mastered the art of playing on astro-turf.
Zifa’s concerns are about gate-takings but there is reason to believe Zifa could rake in more income from Rufaro than they make at NSS due to its appealing central location that always attracts a big crowd. The big Warren Park complex presents obvious challenges for the supporters in terms of remoteness and access to reliable transport to ferry them to and fro. But this is obviously not our only hurdle to jump, as there are many others.
Recently I had a chance encounter with Marc Duvillard, the Aces Youth Academy co-director, and felt refreshed by one of his observations on the state of our football.
The Swiss mentor pointed out that viable sponsorship was still lacking and was the chief cause why football development is slow in taking off in Zimbabwe.
Most of the assistance that comes the way of clubs is largely irrelevant, yet companies smile all the way to the bank with a surfeit of mileage that should really be nothing to
write home about.
“Jerseys, jerseys, jerseys,” I still hear Duvillard laughing away as we spoke.
“We can get these anytime. In fact a playing kit is the easiest thing for a football team to find. We end up with 10 different kits to use but no money to travel to the fixture. Sometimes you wish the sponsor had rather given us the money than buy kit that we already have in abundance.”
The example set in recent seasons by BancABC and Mbada Diamonds in doling out both cash and kit to their beneficiaries is yet to be followed.
Only last week, all a financially drained premiership outfit was able to lay their hands on after sending out an SOS was footballs and T-shirts and the gesture was even hailed as a big development in local football.
Financial packages directed at football must also be upped. A season’s sponsorship worth less than $500 000 is pointedly not sufficient for a premiership club. Footballers, as our true celebrities, must appear dignified in public and this can only come about courtesy of realistic wages.
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