Independent SportView With Darlington Majonga
WHEN premiership weaklings Eiffel Wildcats upset league favourites Caps United last month, the shock result was dismissed as a fluke. Or Caps were yet to recover
after losing six first-team players who deserted the team after a tour of the United Kingdom – we were made to believe.
But after Wildcats beat Motor Action last weekend, we believe even a full-strength Caps United could have found the going tough against the Kadoma strugglers.
It’s unfortunate Wildcats have just remembered they are in the top-flight league to win at a time even winning all their remaining matches won’t mean anything but that they are relegated. It’s a case of too little too late.
However, the “shock” results have just served to prove that there is an alarming dearth of quality in our domestic league.
After all the pre-season hullabaloo we heard, we thought we were going to witness classy football – but it looks like Caps United will once again win the league title not because they are extraordinarily good but because their opponents are unbelievably inferior.
These days nothing much would distinguish clubs on the field of play were it not for good administration that tips the scales. We now have a situation where you only distinguish clubs because of their kit colours – not class.
The derby between Dynamos and Caps recently is a very good example.
Nothing could have separated the relegation-threatened DeMbare and the defending champions were it not for a silly blunder by goalkeeper Tendai Tanyanyiwa.
Of course you can’t take away the industry of Joseph Kamwendo and Lloyd Chitembwe that might have given Caps the edge in midfield.
The same can be said of the match pitting Caps against Highlanders three weeks ago, which failed to live up to its billing. It was a big yawn.
There are many other league matches that have not been different from amateur – if not boozers’ – contests. It needs no rocket scientist to tell why some clubs play in virtually empty stadiums or at best attract about 50 spectators.
Zimbabweans love soccer, but they are not yet too poor to afford paying to watch premiership matches. They just can’t afford to be subjected to hogwash and uninspiring displays in the name of league clubs.
Administrative woes aside, the dearth of quality in Zimbabwe’s domestic league is so worrying that even Jose Mourinho or Arsene Wenger would find it hard to mould a winning team.
Sometimes it might be unfair to judge Zimbabwean football in terms of Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United, but these are the same clubs that set the benchmarks for quality on the domestic scene. It’s a reality we cannot escape.
If we are to look at the other smaller and upcoming clubs, I’m afraid most of them have failed to go beyond the rave reviews they sometimes get – undeservedly too.
We shall not waste time picking on players most of us know are mere pretenders whose only claim to fame doesn’t go beyond getting jerseys at their clubs.
The best our domestic league has achieved this year is to export Cephas Chimedza and Brian Badza to a lowly Belgian club, where the latter is said to be featuring in the reserve side before 50 spectators.
Our local talent is also increasingly finding it hard to make it into the South African premiership – which other strangely still want to believe is inferior to Zimbabwe’s were it not for money.
Over a decade-and-a-half since Peter Ndlovu caused a stir when he was signed on by then English premiership side Coventry, most players we have had thereafter have been mere pretenders.
It’s a pity the only export we can boast is Benjani Mwaruwari, who is at French top side AJ Auxerre, while a number of them are comfortable or wallowing at South African clubs.
At best all we have seen on the domestic scene are promising players – but disappointingly they never realise their potential. Others have been content with their mediocrity without putting any effort towards making themselves polished products.
Clearly the dearth of quality in Zimbabwean soccer should also have more to do with the lack of commitment on the part of the footballers themselves.
The other unforgivable setback is the forging of ages by players. It’s difficult to develop “raw talent” in a 25-year-old when he is 17 on all his doctored documents. You simply can’t cheat age, which is why all those “youths” who exhibit “raw talent” at junior tournaments hardly realise their “great potential” – they would have gone past their peak.
These are the same guys who after a couple of promising performances reward themselves with women and alcohol so much they forget they haven’t gone anywhere as far as soccer is concerned.
Right now we wonder if Zimbabwe can field 11 players in the Under-20 side who have not altered their ages and are playing in the premier league. It’s the same sad story for the Under-23s.
The first step towards Zimbabwe realising real success in football is to ensure competitive leagues on the domestic front. For this to work out, authorities ought to make it their commitment to junior development.
So if anyone is serious about nurturing the soccer talent we claim to be abundant in Zimbabwe, schools of excellence like are the starting point.
Without taking anything away from the endeavours of the likes of Caps United, Bekhimpilo Nyoni and Agatha Sheneti soccer academies, to name but a few, we have absolutely nothing to talk about in terms of grooming footballers.
It would really make sense and cents if Zimbabwe’s top clubs were to establish their own academies that are professionally run.
On the other hand, we ought to realise that developing talent without developing domestic structures in tandem won’t help us in any way.
We should have professionally run league structures that would not only keep some of our best players home but also lure the best from other countries. We should not have players opting to play in inferior leagues just for money, which won’t help them to develop into world-class stars.
Once we have professional and competitive leagues on top of serious youth academies, there is no doubt sponsors would literally fall over each other to bankroll such commendable efforts.
Players should take it upon themselves to prove they really deserve to be treated like the heroes they want us to believe they are – not that they should be starved though.
Otherwise we should just stop forthwith propping up mediocrity and hope administrators as well make it conducive for the players to realise their potential without having to point a finger at anyone for their failure.
Meanwhile, you can still send in your best 11 players of the season, though it’s definitely not an easy job.