Makandiwa: Unsung foosball champion

11 Feb, 2024 - 00:02 0 Views
Makandiwa: Unsung foosball champion

The Sunday Mail

Sports Reporter

TO the multitude of his followers, Emmanuel Makandiwa is a renowned prophet and founder of the United Family International Church (UFIC), which boasts a 30 000-seater mega church building in Chitungwiza.

He has over one million followers on Facebook and his church sermons are followed across the world.

However, unbeknown to many is the other side of the prophet, especially how he spends most of his free time.

Believe it or not, he is actually one of the best table soccer players in the country.

In fact, he has beaten Zimbabwe’s number one-ranked player Douglas “Macheso” Matambanashe, who hails from Harare’s high-density suburb of Mabvuku.

Makandiwa owns a top-of-the-range Tornado table at his house and regularly plays against the country’s best players.

“He (Makandiwa) is the de facto Zimbabwean champion because he has beaten a number of good players, including the top-ranked Douglas (Matambanashe).

“You can ask Matambanashe, he can tell you about the prophet’s ability at the sport,” Makandiwa’s spokesperson, Prime Kufakunesu, said.

Table soccer or foosball is popularly known as slug on the local scene and is often played in various social outlets, including bars and workplaces.

Although it was played socially for years, it became professional in 2019, thanks to the establishment of the Zimbabwe Table Soccer Association (ZTSA), which is headed by Coxwell Chigwanha.

ZTSA is formalising its registration with the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).

But internationally, the sport became vibrant in 2002 following the formation of the International Table Soccer Federation, which now regulates the World Championships and the World Cup.

Locally, the ZTSA is pushing for more professional foosball tournaments across the country.

In January, Matambanashe beat Sonny Sivare to clinch the national championship title at a tournament held in Glen View, Harare. That was his fourth championship in a row.

Matambanashe won US$2 000 and a shield, but the star player is yet to receive his cash because the tournament’s sponsor did not honour their pledge.

“Foosball has always been popular in Zimbabwe, even before the advent of pool or snooker,” Chigwanha said.

“But because of good sponsorship, pool has sort of overtaken foosball.

“However, since we formed the association, we have realised that thousands of people are interested in becoming professional table soccer players.

“In the last tournament we held in Harare, some players and supporters came from as far as Beitbridge.

“We are talking of a sport that is already popular across Zimbabwe and could be a vehicle for social cohesion. Foosball can also tackle social vices like drug abuse and unemployment.”

ZTSA is worried that lack of sponsorship could hamper its target of spreading professional table soccer across the country.

“Professional table soccer is played in family-friendly spaces like hotels, open spaces and decent entertainment centres.

“We are now targeting schools and churches, but we need support from the corporate world.

“We are also appealing to some prominent businessmen who have a soft spot for sport, like Scott Sakupwanya and Wicknell Chivayo, to come in and support,” added Chigwanha.

While the association is looking for corporate support, Matambanashe is celebrating bagging a fourth national championship.

“I started playing the sport in 1989, but lately, it has become professional. There are clear structures and a proper ranking system,” he said.

The ZTSA have come up with a top 100 from games and tournaments played since 2021, and Makandiwa is in the top 10.

“Makandiwa is a very good player; very technical,” Matambanashe noted.

The foosball champion is expected to team up with Richard Choto, Luka Ngwarati, Noel Justin and Sivare for international tours to South Africa, Zambia, Uganda and the United States.

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