Herentals Football Club owner Innocent Benza has broken silence over the Premier Soccer League’s decision to expel his side from the country’s top flight for the second time.
Herentals were initially found on the wrong side of the law for allegedly trying to influence the result of their league clash against army side Black Rhinos but ZIFA acquitted them, before the PSL expelled them again for taking football matters to ordinary courts, much to the ‘heartbroken’ Benza’s disappointment.
In a open letter, Benza wrote:
Cry my beloved football: A letter from Dr Innocent Benza, Herentals Football Club president and player
It is with a heavy heart that I write to you and share my thoughts on recent unfortunate and heart breaking events in the history of my beloved Herentals Football Club, a club established not just as an extension of Herentals Group of Schools but out of a genuine love and passion for the game in my heart.
It was not founded out of rational thought but a spontaneous moment inspired by nothing more than emotion and zeal from myself, my family, my friends and most importantly, the hundreds of scholars enrolled within the Group of Schools.
Since the end of last season, we have been called cheats not once but twice for allegedly fixing our matches against Black Rhinos and Bulawayo Chiefs. Subsequent action against us has seen us being charged and found guilty by the Premier Soccer League for attempting and/or fixing the match against Rhinos in our favour, a verdict rightly overturned after we appealed to the Zimbabwe Football Association Appeals Committee against both the charge and the subsequent ‘sentence’.
And just as we thought it was one less problem, the league went on to throw us out of the league for taking football matters to a court of law. Sadly, this was done regardless of football rules and regulations concerning judicial bodies and their mandates. It is this new effort to rid local football of my beloved Herentals that has broken my heart!
For all intents and purposes, these charges and allegations against the club and by extension my person have caused angst within my heart and my conscience. Ever since rumours of these allegations surfaced towards the end of last year, I have been seized by efforts, introspective efforts, to rationalise:
1. The source of these allegations and
2. The reasoning behind what I consider serious efforts to destroy my club
I do not wish to point any fingers or accuse anyone but I do believe that there is a third force, so to speak, behind these allegations. And what hurts me the most is why football has chosen to ignore my obvious love for the game and fixate instead on these false allegations. I wonder with impunity why you, my dear football have chosen to disregard 11 years of constant and selfless contribution to the game I so dearly love.
If you don’t mind my Dear Football, I would like to take you down memory lane and share with you examples of my deep rooted love for you.
The Group of Schools was established in 1999 with our first campus situated in the Harare CBD along Robert Mugabe Way. It was quickly followed by another in Gazaland and a third in Chitungwiza and today, 21 years later, we have 50 campuses across the country. And at each and everyone of these campuses sport in general and football in particular are key aspects of our scholar development which has allowed the club to scout for and sign players from within our 50 campuses.
My entry into football began in 2009 when I started assisting Zifa in various ways. Being a die hard football fanatic, I saw Zifa struggling and could not bare to see the game regress. One early positive consequence of this relationship with Zifa for me personally was meeting the games key stakeholders such as one Moses Chunga whom I credit for giving me the impetus to establish the club. It was Bambo who encouraged me to start a social soccer team after my administrative and teaching staff faced off as part of annual ball games festival. Bambo loved the passion from myself and my staff and encouraged me to start playing football regularly.
Other soccer legends, besides Chunga ,who encouraged me are Stephen Jonera and Nesbert ‘Yabo’ Saruchera. In fact, Saruchera is the one who organised the first social game that we played in Rufaro. That moment in 2009 is today Herentals FC, a Premiership side that has produced national players for both the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors.
I have been an active member of the playing staff at the club since day and I am still going strong despite being 47 years old. If the powers that be hear my plea, I will be part of the 2020 Premiership season squad. And maybe score a goal or two as I have done since our promotion into the PSL in 2018, a season in which we finished 6th on the log standings.
My family shares my love for the game as evidenced by my son, Tino who is also a player at the club and my brother Paul is a Caf A licensed coach and an assistant coach with the first team along with being the head coach for our development side.
For the club the following have won caps with national teams:
Warriors- Blessing Majarira (Cosafa 2017), Richard Hachiro (Cosafa 2018 and Chan qualifiers), Tino Benza (Under-17 captain) and Juan-Smith Mutudza (Under-23).
Mighty Warriors- Lindiwe Mangwende, Susan Nyama, Talent Mukwanda, Shamiso Mutasa, Tabeth Mutinhira and Bridget Muteurwa.
These are all products of a disciplined and reputable club that only wants to offer its thousands of students across the country a platform to express themselves. I humbly submit this letter to you Dear Football and hope that my silent cry will be heard and Herentals can continue to execute its honest responsibility to our children.
I hope and pray that I will not be punished for loving the game and wanting to give my all for the game. I hope and pray that my beloved club will be allowed to continue its genesis in top flight football.
So my Dear Football, with these words I take my leave and lace on my boots as I prep for a run with ‘boyz dzangu’ at Herentals!
Dr Innocent Benza.
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