Have we normalized the abnormal?

While it is very easy to conclude that our football has gone to the dogs, perhaps it is a case of the dogs having gone to our football instead.

As a football-loving public, we are dishonestly unable or unwilling —or both —to simply tell ourselves that there are people who are hellbent on making sure that their self-centred motives triumph over the game.

As a football nation, we have adopted an ostrich mentality, where we simply tell ourselves that as long as someone is not breaking the law, whatever they are doing is right and justifiable.

Week in week out, football matches in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League are couched by deliberate ways to just get a result, at the expense of the development and future of the game.

Winning bonuses amounting to between US$100 to US$200, have suddenly become the most important thing in our football, to the point that even the feelings of the fans —the owners of the game as the great footballer commentator Charles Mabika argues —no longer matter.

A player can be so insensitive to the plight of football fans, who pay their hard earned money to commute and watch games in the country’s top-flight, just to get winning bonuses.

While it is true that being a football player is a job and the idea is to put food on the table, there is a lot of disrespect the game is being subjected to.

Herentals College’ reserve goalkeeper Nevermind Antonio was sent off by refeere Thabani Bamala in the Students’ goalless draw with Dynamos at the National Sports Stadium yesterday and what did after, mirrors the state of our football.

He deliberately walked through the pitch to the dressing room, forcing play to be stopped as a way to waste time, instead of just simply using another route and allow the game to continue.

It took the intervention of the police to drag him off the field and for play to resume after a lengthy stoppage.

Herentals’ reserve goalkeeper Nevermind Antonio is dragged off the field by Police, after deciding to through the pitch following his sending off. (Picture by Libertino)

For once, even Herentals coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva, who usually defends everything done by his charges, condemned the goalkeepers’ actions.

“He should have used another route to go to the dressing room after being sent off. He is a goalkeeper from our developmental side who joined the Premier Soccer League this season and I don’t know how emotions got on him, to the extent that he could do that,” Mutiwekuziva said in his post-match interview.

“He did so as a result of being frustrated by Dynamos, who were holding on to our ball. I think those situations can happen in the lower divisions, so we have to correct  him because he is now in the Premiership,” added Mutiwekuziva.

What led to Antonio’s sending off was that the Herbert Maruwa-led Dynamos technical team accused the Herentals ball retrievers of hiding match balls to delay time.

They (the DeMbare technical team) then took one match ball from a boy retriever and concealed it in a jacket, so that they quickly throw it back on the field when the need arises.

The Herentals players who were on the substitutes bench reacted angrily to the young ball retriever and ordered him to get the ball back.

He didn’t and the Students confronted the Dynamos technical team and got the ball back, before kicking it away.


While the debate on time wasting antics can go on till the cows come home, it is the involvement of ball balls which is of great concern.

They (ball boys) are youngsters aspiring to be footballers who will grow up thinking that the tactical side of football is of less importance,  what matters are off field tendencies which help to win a game.

Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Technical Director Wilson Mutekede is concerned about the involvement of ball boys in ‘time wasting antics’.

“It’s every football stakeholder’s concern and everyone who is concerned about the sound development of the game,” recons Mutekede.

“It’s also concerning with regards to other stakeholders, partners and fans coming back to our football.

“It’s been pathetic,  we have seen some clubs engaging in those bad habits, to the extent that we have seen balls being withdrawn and the ball boys disappearing when the home team is leading,” added Mutekede.

Mutekese admits he has witnessed ball boys being involved in time wasting antics and personally confronted them on several occasions.

“I have witnessed it myself and at times even addressed the ball boys and told them it’s not right for a person aspiring to be a professional footballer. I told them it’s not right and the moment they start normalizing doing what’s not right, it won’t end there,” said Mutekede.

“It’s very sad because the other thing we have noticed is that the ages of some of the ball boys is of great concern. When you have a 20-year-old or a 22-year-old being a ball boy, what does that mean when they are supposed to be playing on the field of play?

“So from a developmental point of view, we condemn this outrightly. It’s not the right thing to do. I wish the clubs would look at that and consider the bigger picture because this is about the development of football,” added Mutekede.

While some clubs are not looking at the bigger picture and just focused on winning matches by every means necessary, Zimbabwean football faces a bleak future.

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