Benza continues to defy odds

26 Jun, 2022 - 00:06 0 Views
Benza continues to defy odds

The Sunday Mail

Don Makanyanga
Sports Reporter

IT’S a landmine laden terrain that has claimed a number of scalps. An environment that doesn’t favour individually owned football clubs as a number, including giants like CAPS United, are struggling to stay afloat.

Some like Amazulu, Masvingo United, Lengthens, Monomotapa, Eagles and Shooting Stars closed shop.

It has become a tough operating environment, what with Covid-19 also having negatively impacted the domestic football industry.

Against all odds, Innocent Benza remains determined to last the distance and turn his Herentals project into a football empire.

Apart from owning the flagship Premiership franchise Herentals, Benza also runs men’s teams in the NRSL and the Harare Province Division Two as well as a Women’s side that competes in the Zimbabwe Women’s League’s top-flight.

He might have been on the wrong end of a barrage of criticism for continuing to play in the Premiership at 50, but the businessman cum-player has turned the negative vibes into motivation.

Benza reveals that his son Tinotenda, who plays in the Premiership side has also kept him going.

“My biggest motivation to play soccer at 50 has been my son Tinotenda Benza, I have been a practical inspiration to him in the field and he always pushes me to continue. I could say our motivation is mutual.

“As long as I am still fit, I will be on the field. I have ridden over negativity by some people and I choose to focus.

“I just want to acknowledge the grace of God that has kept me fit. I am fit for generations,” Benza told Sunday Mail Sport.

“My love for football can be traced back to the 90s when I used to participate in the boys’ soccer team at St Augustine’s Tsambe Mission school in Nyanga.

“After school, I couldn’t pursue my soccer career because it had been superseded by other commitments and not to mention the lack of clear opportunities,” he said.

After successfully setting up his education business with the Herentals Group of Schools, Benza decided to revisit his football passion.

That is when he turned his then social club into a professional outfit.

“Around 2008, I decided to create a football social club from students and a few teachers.

“I then decided to venture into professional soccer around 2013 and we had a wide selection of stars from students from our various centres.“The idea of four football teams was not done overnight. It grew over the years and now I am proud to be in ownership of four talented teams involved in professional football.”

Benza, however, admits that it has not been an easy task with a lot of challenges involved in running even just one football franchise.

“Building a football empire is no easy task. My family has been quite supportive and my young brother Paul Benza has done me proud with the Under-20 team.

“Passion for soccer has been my main drive towards wide sponsorship in football. I then realised that I could stretch my passion to cater for talent growth in the youth.

“I am very happy about how a number of people in the society are growing to appreciate the beauty of soccer as a sport and a career.

“I am determined to stop at nothing until the Herentals Football empire has earned the recognition it deserves,” he said.

Herentals seem to have learnt their lessons well having survived relegation at the end of the 2019 season.

They are enjoying one of their best runs in the top-flight and on Friday overcame Harare City 2-0 to ease into sixth place.

The younger Benza – Tinotenda – found the opener before Blessing Majarira added the second.

Interestingly, it was Tinotenda Benza, who scored the first goal of the 2021-22 season and grabbed the opening goal of the second half of the term.

The PSL had been on a mid-season break.

Not only is the Premiership side enjoying a purple patch but Herentals’ other teams are having fine runs in their respective leagues.

Herentals Under-20 side top the Northern Region Soccer League standings, while Herentals Queens are second on the Women’s Soccer Premier League table.

He gave a hint into what makes his ventures succeed.

“Aside from being an education provider, I have successfully ventured into a number of business projects which have smoothened the financing of my soccer empire.

“It is quite satisfying that so far Herentals has managed to run the football club without financial squabbles.

“The biggest secret behind our success story has been the motivation of players and teamwork. Our players are well-motivated in terms of their earnings and general upkeep.

“If a club is able to motivate a player, then teamwork will be a bonus,” said Benza.

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