BY MICHAEL KARIATI
ZIMBABWEAN club football is on an upward curve with more and more sponsors coming on board and clubs now in a position to survive on their own rather than relying on gate takings.
Evidence to that effect is there in plain sight as almost 70% of clubs in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League are now fully corporate sponsored with only a handful still in the hands of individuals.
Word doing rounds is to the effect that the sponsor for Dynamos and Highlanders is even willing to go even further by negotiating leases for the clubs for Rufaro and Barbourfields stadiums.
This was even further buttressed by the hive of activity during the transfer window period which was because more clubs had the finances to spend unlike in the past when the market was the preserve of FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars.
In fact, only Caps United, Hwahwa, Tenax, and Yadah, seem to be lacking in serious sponsorship but not the other 14 teams that make up the PSL assembly.
Gone are the days when every day the story was about players refusing to train because they had not received their salaries or allowances for over three or so months.
Or those days when clubs failed to fulfil their distant away fixtures because their team bus had either broken down or had no fuel to take them to their destination.
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The ultimate goal is to have a Zimbabwean game that will in future be able to pay its players good salaries that will stop them from moving to Tanzania, Zambia, or other lowly ranked African football leagues.
Truly, Zimbabwean football has suffered from this never ending exodus of its finest players and in this age of change, the country should not continue as a talent breeder for other leagues.
Instead, Zimbabwe should have a game of football that should attract talent from neighbouring countries because of its financial power as was the case in the past when the best from Malawi and Zambia flocked to the domestic Premiership.
Those were the days when the likes of Derby Makinka, Francis Kasanda, Sandros Kumwenda, Laughter Chilembe, Ferdinand Mwachindalo, Kelvin Kaindu, and of course, Joseph Kamwendo the Malawian who won the Zimbabwe Soccer Star of the Year Award in 2005 graced the Zimbabwean fields.
All these players and those from other African countries were attracted to this country not only by the high standards of our football but also by the huge financial incentives which were on offer then.
So far, Zimbabwe seems to be walking on the right path back to the good days with a number of clubs now paying salaries worth the profession in Zimbabwe and others like Dynamos, Highlanders, and Bulawayo Chiefs, rumoured to be paying out very huge incentives.
That the change is coming during the time of the Fifa ban is merely coincidence but Zimbabwe football should take advantage of this isolation so that its teams come back stronger and different when the country finally gets readmission to international football.
The occupation during this period of isolation should be building a strong league that will in turn produce strong teams for the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederation Cup when the time comes.
The truth is that there has been a huge improvement in as far as club sponsorship is concerned but at national level, things have remained stagnant with only the Chibuku Super Cup and the Castle Lager Championship to talk of.
We await, that with the exciting football that is coming out from the field of play, and the sanity that is prevailing in football administration, that very soon, sponsors will be knocking on the door to bankroll other knockout tournaments and possibly at national level and not only in the PSL.
Zimbabweans miss the days when in one season, there was the Chibuku Trophy, the Rothmans Shield, the BAT Rosebowl, and the Zifa Cup which was the biggest of them all.
All these tournaments brought entertainment to the fans and also helped greatly in the financial coffers of the clubs and the earnings of the players.
The sponsors are there OK Zimbabwe, CBC, FBC Holdings, Banc ABC, Econet, and NetOne, and they are willing to be associated with the game of football.
The only thing that is missing is a grandmaster who can lure them to the game with a package that is attractive to their product or products.
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