Former Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari missed out on a cool $1 million for his testimonial match on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium after a local mining company pulled the plug on a major sponsorship deal.
More money was due from Supersport, who had wanted to televise the match live, but Benjani, with pressure mounting on Thursday, failed to travel to South Africa for a special one hour interview.
At the end, veteran Supersport commentator Thomas Mokwena Kwenaite came into the country for interviews with Benjani.
But spokesman for the organisers, Tsaurai Muzanenhamo, said yesterday he was not aware of the mining company’s offer.
“There was never anything like that at all,” he said. But he added: “Some of the corporates did not capture the whole idea of the testimonial as it was meant for the Benjani Mwaruwari Foundation. If I can put it this way, the reception was cold, maybe perhaps of the economic environment we are operating in.”
But a senior executive at the mining company confirmed to NewsDay Sport they had been approached for financial support, but used the issue of budgetary constraints as their main reason for not availing support.
“They did approach us and we said the whole thing was not in our budget but it was still a noble idea. But the issue is when you are doing such things, there are some people that you cannot use as your front,” he said.
A chartered plane, which was due to carry the stars from Johannesburg, South Africa, failed to materialise due to as yet unexplained reasons and the players had to use scheduled commercial flights which arrived at various times starting at 12:20pm, 12:45pm, 13:10pm and 13:55pm while other players made it on Saturday morning.
The morning was characterised by haggling between Zifa and Benjani over the match-staging rights, which were eventually signed giving each Warrior an appearance fee of $500.
Zifa and supreme sports body, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), are expected to get 15% each once attendance figures are finalised.
Benjani had been advised not to sign and the SRC threatened to stop the match in the morning as they sought to avoid the Brazil-Zimbabwe fiasco of June 2010 which has left Zifa facing international lawsuits.
On the Supersport deal, Muzanenhamo said: “I was not privy to those finer details as Benjani was negotiating with his counterparts in South Africa.
“But we did have Thomas Kwenaite coming in here for interviews with his camera person.”
Some of the stars who featured in the match include Nigerian internationals Nwankwo Kanu, Yakubu, Senegalese El Hadji Diouf and Khalilou Fadiga, Lucas Radebe and Aaron Mokoena from South Africa, John Pantsil from Ghana, Lomano Lua Lua of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pascal Chimbonda and Kevin Pezzoni.
They stayed at the Rainbow Towers where Benjani forked out for their accommodation, contrary to reports that the Ministry of Tourism had provided free rooms. While no official figures could be obtained, it is believed that accommodation cost $40 000, according to our sister paper, the Standard.
Said Tourism minister Walter Muzembi yesterday: “It does not make any business sense to invite the international stars and provide them with free accommodation. Instead, it’s time to make money for the hotels that host them, otherwise it defeats the whole purpose of business.
“This word called ‘free’ that is flying around is completely wrong. Why should we give them accommodation for free when the guys have demonstrated they have money coming come out of their ears?
“If people can buy a jersey for $8 000, why should we give them accommodation for free? There is no such business language.”
Muzanenhamo though paid tribute to the sponsors: “We are grateful that we had tremendous support from CBZ Bank and Green Card Medical Aid. We also had Arkein Capital who funded the youth festival in Bulawayo from their base in South Africa.
”They also bought some auction jerseys as well, while Aspero kitted the Warriors and the Friends of Benjani.
“By and large, it was a resounding success.
Everything though, has its own challenges and we did meet some challenges here and there, but I can tell you that the owner of the event is ecstatic about everything.”
Attendance figures were not available to this paper yesterday: “They are being computed as we speak,” the spokesman said.
The crowd could have swelled to about 40 000 by the time the main match began at around 4:30pm. Hundreds of people though scaled the walls just before 3pm in response to the crowd’s thunderous applause as the Southern and Northern Legends entered the pitch as they had the impression the main match had started.
Some of the fans had to wait for almost 40 minutes as some of the entry points ran out of tickets and eventually, a whole lot of people later parted with their $5 “entry fee” without tickets.