Sibanda has vision for women’s football

Fatima Bulla
Zimbabwe Women Soccer League boss Miriam Sibanda has said their first task will be to re-engage Marange Resources who signed a sponsorship deal with the National Super League, as soon as the new board has been officially handed over the office by their predecessors.

In 2012, the Chiadzwa diamond miner entered into a lucrative marriage with women’s football, then under the

guidance of previous chairperson Mavis Gumbo.
The estimated US$3 million package saw the mining giant funding the national league, the Under-20 national team and the Mighty Warriors.

However, the league became dormant in 2013 when Marange Resources apparently pulled the plug on their association with local women’s football.

Before she lost the post to Sibanda on March 15, Gumbo had indicated that Marange Resources were keen on a fresh deal.

“The zifa secretariat was preoccupied with the elections. But now that the polls are out of the way we will talk to them. What our membership wants is to understand what became of the sponsorship.

“So if we can engage Marange (Resources) and understand what the sponsorship entailed, whether it is going to go ahead or not. Those are the things that the clubs, regions and provinces want to know. Once we know, then we will be able to act from there,” Sibanda said.

Marange Resources corporate affairs manager Muriel Nqwababa, who represented the organisation in the initial deal, said only the acting chief executive, Mark Bhudu, who is out of the country at the moment, can comment on the issue.

Meanwhile, Sibanda said the national league has to be played whether there is sponsorship or not.
“We want to involve the clubs. From the interactions I have had with our co-ordinator, the fixtures’ list is out already so what is left is to plan the dates. Most of the clubs have said it is not so much about the sponsorship that we should focus on. We need to focus on playing first and it becomes easier even for them and us as an association to court corporates.

“Paying their affiliation fees meant they wanted to play. So what I was made to understand is that it was not sponsorship that was lacking in so much as leadership and the ability to just organise the clubs,” Sibanda, a former journalist, said.

Sibanda, an administrator at Northern region Division One side Twalumba FC, will take advantage of the changes to the zifa Assembly which ushered in nash, naph and tertiary institutions in place of junior football to infiltrate schools.

“The yardstick for this year is for each province and the four regions to have 10 and 20 teams playing respectively. We should have a schools’ league by end of year.

“Inasmuch the Mighty Warriors are not our key result area, they still remain the most visible barometer of our successes as women’s football.

“So we will also continue to work with zifa to ensure that players in the Super League and across regions with potential to play in the national team are given an opportunity to receive proper training and psychological support.
“We need to come up with proper systems that when we call up the girl child to camp we should have resources to pay those girls so that we do not have sit-ins which go on to affect the quality of our game,” added Sibanda.

With most clubs struggling to sustain the junior policy, Sibanda said they intend to explore that gap to showcase women football.

“The men’s teams seem to have forgotten about their junior policies where the teams played as curtain raisers. We would like to engage some of the clubs and ask if our women’s clubs can be their curtain raisers.

“That way we are making full use of the stadia on a day when everyone is able to come and watch the game,” said Sibanda, wife to businessman Nkululeko Sibanda.

Sibanda promised to come up with ways to lure fans to come to stadiums to watch the women’s version of the game.
“We want to add value to women’s football. Do we continue letting in people come for free? We have to start somewhere even if we say come and pay R2 or R5, it is a start. But we are also cognisant of the fact that the quality of play is not to the levels that we can charge high gate fees.

“We also have to be innovative in terms of generating interest in the game. Instead of selling replica jerseys, we have to know what Zimbabwe women identify with, something that they can buy in return to supporting girls’ football like fabric.

“Those are some of the ideas we have, but right now we are putting them in a box and we will have to identify the ones that are practical in the short term,” Sibanda said.

Sibanda applauded NetOne for their knockout tournament which resumed at the semi-final stage yesterday.

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