The future of community football clubs in Zimbabwe looks bleak unless their management teams put their houses in order and operate professionally, analysts have said.
This comes at a time when teams, owned by resource rich companies such as Ngezi Platinum and FC Platinum, have taken the local football league by storm, particularly since last year.
FC Platinum, which was promoted into the league eight years ago, won its first Castle Premier Soccer League title last year — seven years down the line — on the back of sound and effective management.
FC Platinum beat the country’s most successful team, Dynamos, to last season’s title by two points on the last day of the league.
The team has had managerial stability with Norman Mapeza being the coach since 2014 when he took over from Lloyd Mutasa.
Other teams have a high turnover of coaches, which, analysts say, affects continuity.
With 10 games played so far this season, Ngezi Platinum, which is owned by top platinum mining firm Zimplats, has been full value for money invested and have become runaway favourites to land this year’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title.
Madamburo, as Ngezi is known by its legion of fans, has chalked up eight wins and two draws to amass a massive 26 points.
Interestingly, fellow platinum mine sponsored (The moneybags) FC Platinum is in second place with 23 points after as many games.
Of the three community teams — Dynamos, Highlanders and Shabani Mine — only Bosso are in a respectable position with the rest dabbling with relegation zone.
Bosso are in third position after amassing 20 points from six wins, two draws and two losses.
On the contrary, Dynamos lie 12th with nine points after a paltry two wins, three draws and five losses while Shabani, arguably the league’s poorest team, are in 14th place with nine points too.
This week, Zimbabwe’s most successful soccer coach and former Dynamos gaffer, Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa, told Business Weekly that the emergence of teams funded by well-heeled companies had caused a shift in the tectonic plates of local league.
“Company teams have the resources over other teams because they can sign good players, pay signing on fees, and salaries while community teams lack such resources,” said Chidzambwa, who is also the Warriors coach.
Junior football coach and Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association (Zisca) chairman Bekhimpilo Nyoni concurred, but said if community teams improved their management, they could still bounce back and stake a claim riding on their strong fan base.
“I think we can’t run away from the power of fans (as shown by Dynamos and Highlanders). Secondly, having a professional set up is very important; if FC Platinum didn’t have a professional set up, they were not going to win the league, but they won the league in their seventh year all because of patience and the experience they were getting in the previous seasons.
“They have one coach who I think is currently the longest serving in the league and it seems Ngezi is learning from FC Platinum and they have also put up a professional set up,” said Nyoni.
Professionalism key to turnaround
Nyoni says if community teams can put up sound management systems in their ranks, they can go all the way and dominate local football given their huge fan bases.
Across the Limpopo, older teams such as Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, have paled into insignificance following the emergence of Pretoria-based Mamelodi Sundowns which is run like a business.
Sundowns, which is owned by mining magnate, Patrice Motsepo, has clinched a record eight league titles since inception of the Premier Soccer League in 1996.
Crucially, Sundowns also won the CAF Champions League in 2016.
Nyoni says if community teams don’t change their management systems, then the platinum teams will dominate local soccer for some time.
“It won’t be surprising that in the next five to 10 years, and if the economy is performing well and mineral prices are doing well, these teams (FC Platinum and Ngezi) will continue to dominate the league,” he said.
However, Chidzambwa declined to give the platinum mining teams a blank cheque.
“I wouldn’t say so. Community teams such as Highlanders and Dynamos have the crowds and that on its own is a plus for them. If they can organise themselves, then they can come back and dominate local soccer,” he said.
Community teams are currently gasping for life as a combination of economic challenges and bad management are weighing them down.
Dynamos, a top brand that has bagged 22 titles, is struggling to tie down top players while the few they have are struggling to get their signing on fees and salaries.
The community team model has dismally failed in the country as exemplified by the demise of Zimbabwe Saints.