The eagerly-awaited ‘It’s Time To make Zimbabwean Football Exciting Again’ workshop was held in Harare on Monday.
The workshop, organised by Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) in conjuction with the Supersport TV and the Premier Soccer League, attracted the PSL executive memebers, its board of governors, the media and other football stakeholders.
Participants were treated to an insightful presentation by Stan Matthews—the Chief Executive Officer of South African top-flight side SuperSport United.
Also eye-opening was Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry’s presentation, as she took delegates through the process that led to the decision to clean Zimbabwean football.
Challenges/Problems hindering growth of our football industry
Matthews began his presentation by highlighting the importance of branding and how the SuperSport United brand grew.
He didn’t hide his envy for the hardworking and dedicated Zimbabweans who always put their all when they are called to duty. Matthews emphasized this as he took the delegates through the process of how he worked with players like former Matsatsantsa defender Kaitano Tembo, whom he signed in 1999 and rose from being a player to coaching the first team.
Matthews also spoke of goalkeepers George Chigova and Washington Arubi, defender Onismor Bhasera whom he is planning to integrate into junior football development and striker Evans Rusike.
Brand development is a continuous process followed by brands. It helps brands maintain their consistency in terms of quality, reputation, and value, among other facets of the brand. This would then lead us into defining brand development as a process practiced by brands to maintain their quality, reputation, and value among customers.
So on the need to develop and maintain a strong brand for our Castle Lager Premier Soccer League, Matthews bemoaned the fact that every season almost 25% of the teams get relegated, making it difficult to maintain a strong brand as it means that we have a significant 25% of new players making up the 18-team league.
Compared to other leagues it is evident that the number of teams relegated affect the quality and value of the brand. For example the English Premier League sits on 15%, same for Spanish LaLiga, whilst the German Bundesliga and SA Premier Soccer League are on 10% and 6% respectively. So hopefully this worrying statistic will be sorted when the National Division One league is launched in the future.
The Supersport CEO also touched on the need for our local football administrators to view football beyond the 90 minutes as a lot of background work has to be done to take the brand to the people.
Football fans always talk about how the late Mzilikazi High School headmaster Cuthbert Chiromo and renowned junior football coach Ali Baba Dube produced football heroes like Peter Ndlovu and the late Benjamin Nkonjera among others.
Football administrators were urged to work towards producing football heroes and the players should be at the centre of attention and the need to put players first not as the last priority.
He urged administrators to start viewing players as valuable assets and not expenses for any football institution and as such, they should be maintained and well looked after to keep on generating revenue for the entity.
Just like in any business entity where assets are insured because they are important the same should also happen to our players who are the main actors in this whole puzzle.
On the aspect of players being assets who generate revenue, Matthews gave a model where SuperSport United prioritizes player development, which generates millions of rands in revenue through player sales.
Matthews further emphasized the need for club administrators to hire qualified coaches for their football development sides since that is where football coaching is all about, whilst first team coaches are mainly tacticians.
He encouraged the league authorities to take grassroots football development seriously and make it mandatory for clubs to have development sides.
Matthews also touched briefly on the issue of governance where he said that strong football institutions are the ones who have blended old guys with the younger generation in administrative roles.
The older generation will be acting as a library to keep on referring to whilst the younger generation will drive the institution into the future. He also encouraged the clubs to make it a culture that their human capital go through continuous development to stay abreast of current football issues.
Another important aspect Matthews mentioned which should be quickly implemented by the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League is the need for clubs to have unity of purpose where they all strive to develop the PSL brand and look at that one goal of developing and shaping our football terrain. No big brother treatment as all players in the league are equal and deserve equal respect though there are some who may be viewed as big brands.
There is a bigger brand to develop.
Matthews touched on the issue of club licensing which is critical in achieving a football league that we need.
There are a lot of changes that have been integrated which should be taken into consideration to avoid inconveniences.
CAF recently announced that no club will participate in their continental competitions if they don’t have a women’s team because women’s football is no longer negotiable and proper documentation should be in place.
It’s now also a prerequisite for coaches to have certain qualifications to sit in the dugout including all personnel in the technical set up. So it is critical for clubs to make sure their personnel are qualified.
Feedback and reasons behind dissolution of the ZIFA board
Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry reiterated that she made the decision to suspend the Felton Kamambo-led Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) board because she is a sportsperson and her heart bled for fellow sportspeople being treated badly.
She said football should be seen from the bigger picture beyond the kicking of the ball. Coventry urged everyone to work towards returning football back to being a family sport where everyone feels comfortable to attend matches and being in administrative roles or when executing their technical duties like referees, coaches etc.
The former Olympic champion also mentioned the issue of inclusivity where women no longer felt safe participating or taking any roles in football and that had to come to an end.
Administrators in football are agents whilst the players are principals but we have seen that agents are enjoying a bigger chunk whilst the principals get only a chunk or nothing at times. That, Coventry recorns, is a big NO.
On responding to one of the questions on the state of our stadiums and the progress made so far in bringing them to FIFA (FIFA) or CAF standards, the Minister said a lot of corrupt underhand dealings are stalling the progress.
She also mentioned issues to do with some requirements from FIFA/CAF that make it difficult to finish the projects and urged the football governing bodies to look at the bigger picture of football development.
Coventry also urged administrators to work towards exposing some government or local authorities officials who overcharge for services against the normal pricing.
Unfortunately, some media houses decided to mislead the nation and global audience on the issue of lighting at our stadiums by misrepresenting facts about exactly what she said.
She said for now lighting can’t be a priority for CAF or FIFA to approve our stadiums because we can do without for now.
The Minister said we have to look at developing the facilities appropriate for football players’ development first and give every child an opportunity than focusing on the finishing touches which can be done without for now.
She did however emphasized the importance of lighting for broadcasting purposes but when playing during the day we have enough lighting to cater for that as is the current status.