THE COUNTRY has four Zifa Division One regional football leagues – our own Southern Region and the Northern, Central and Eastern regions – and unless one has a team playing in any of these the goings-on in these leagues attract little, if any interest, most of the season.
On the Ball with Innocent Kurwa.
Of course, towards the end of the season there is interest, purely generated by a desire to know which teams are likely to be promoted to the Premier Soccer League(PSL).
However, once in a while something gripping crops up from these regional leagues, especially when renowned clubs like Zimbabwe Saints – one of the oldest football clubs in the country – feature in these leagues. Quite a number of teams from these leagues are in remote rural areas and their playing pitches are just a bowl of sand and dust. Their playing fields are not that attractive to teams in the PSL and promotion to the PSL for any of these comes with its own headaches.
In a lot of times in the past, these “village” teams have been forced to find alternative home grounds once promoted — for several reasons, among them that their grounds do not meet PSL standards and security is poor, or non-existent.
It becomes a problem, therefore, when a “little village” team are heading the log table of a regional division or seemingly challenging for promotion. One of the hurdles such a team faces is simply the mentality of so-called town teams not accepting that they are second fiddle to abafana bemakhaya and the thought of big teams the PSL playing in the sand and dust bowls of these teams. This opens a Pandora’s Box and among the filth that comes out is match-fixing in order to deny these “little” teams promotion.
This background and argument makes one consider with a bit of seriousness allegations that cropped up this week from Southern Region Division One side Tsholotsho Pirates that there might be some undertones of match-fixing in their championship. Normally there is always something amiss in matches in these lower leagues, especially the disease of home referees. Most teams in the Southern Region Division One will tell you that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to win a match in Hwange!
The Zifa leadership in the Southern Region should, therefore, take seriously the allegations by Tsholotsho Pirates and launch a full investigation in order to unearth the whole truth! It is possible Tsholotsho Pirates are just playing games, so to speak, but this can only be revealed by a full and proper investigation.
This investigation will, of course, identify the culprits and these must be dealt with severely in good time so that this cancer is stemmed in the bud.
Football in Zimbabwe has suffered from the Asiagate scandal, scars of which are still very fresh, and anything that is likely to take us that route must be routed decisively and quickly. Everyone involved with football must play their full role in addressing anything likely to damage the sport, and this includes sports journalists.
Talking of journalists playing their role, when Harare City FC chairman Leslie Gwindi addressed the Bulawayo Press Club earlier this year, he pointed out that one of the reasons that made football suffer in this country was that sports journalists accepted bribes from sports authorities in order to pay a blind eye to wrong or corrupt goings-on or to simply look the other side. Just last week, former Caps United and Warriors striker Alois Bunjira, writing in a weekly newspaper, attacked sports journalists for helping push issues under the carpet in an article in which he, quite rightly, criticised Zifa on the bungling of the Warriors’ World Cup qualifying trip to Guinea. We all know there are well-known sports journalists who were cited in the Asiagate scandal.
Journalists must remain the true fourth estate and tell it just like it is if the country is to get rid of poor performance in sports administration.
Local tennis star Cara Black, playing in the Wimbledon Open tennis doubles, survived black Wednesday in London when a record seven players pulled out due to injuries. The casualty list included famous stars losing in the second round, among them defending champion Roger Federer, former champion Leyton Hewitt, women’s third-seeded Maria Sharapova, Caroline Wozniacki and men’s fifth seed Rafael Nadal who fell in the first round, the first time he has suffered such an early defeat in a Grand Slam tournament in 13 years. Those out due to injuries included Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Victoria Azarenka and Marin Cilic.
The International Tennis Federation said this was the highest number of withdrawals in one day at any Grand Slam championship in the 45 years of the Open era.
Africa’s woes continued at the Under-20 World Cup finals in Turkey with both Ghana and Egypt losing in their second group matches while Mali again drew, this time with Greece in a match they should have won, as they were in control throughout the 90 minutes. Egypt, after losing 2-1 to Iraq are virtually out of the finals while Mali, Ghana and Nigeria might just slip through into the second round as best third-placed teams.
Brazil are through to the final of the Confederations(Confed) Cup, to be played on Sunday at the famous Maracana Stadium, after edging fellow South Americans Uruguay 2-1 in a pulsating semi-final on Wednesday night. As you read this, either Spain or Italy will be Brazil’s opponents in the final. The two European giants, who clashed in the 2012 European Championship final in which Spain prevailed, met last night in the second Confed Cup semi-final.
Formula One fanatics will have a day to savour on Sunday when their teams compete in the British GP at Silverstone. I put my money on homeboy and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to follow up his 2008 victory at Silverstone with a close victory.