With Itai Dzamara
SPORTS journalists converge in Harare tomorrow to choose this year’s outstanding players on the local soccer scene. It took me a while and some effort to eventually have a sense of pr
ide on the basis that I would be part of the process.
I shrugged off the confusion and ambivalence that had tormented me following attempts by some soccer followers and journalists to pre-empt this year’s edition as a non-event.
It has been argued, justifiably so in some cases, that our soccer is at an all-time low. That the beautiful game here has gone to the dogs. But it is the argument that there is nothing to reward in the midst of mediocrity and chaos which I find destructive and expressly negative.
It is vital at this point in our soccer to remember that it is foolish to burn the whole house because a snake is hiding somewhere inside it. We can’t destroy the little that remains in soccer merely because some individuals at Zifa have continued dragging the game into a morass.
The smaller crowds that still go to the stadiums to watch the domestic leagues as well as international matches must have found some few moments to cheer. They must have found something worth going back for or talking about the whole week.
The year has been characterised by wild scenes of jubilation from Caps United followers because their team has been on top. And at some stage the last laugh belonged to Highlanders when it became the first and only team to beat Caps.
There is chaos at Dynamos, yes, but that is not the end of the game. Better things could be coming for the Glamour Boys but only if club administrators focus on rebuilding the team.
Therein lies the ray of hope that still exists and on which we must strive to rebuild the game. It would be tragic for all of us to surrender to the forces — be they individuals, groups or even spirits — bent on destroying local soccer.
This year has seen its own revelations, has had its own great moments and indeed celebrated its own stars. It has experienced some talent being revealed.
It was exciting to many soccer followers to watch the bundle of energy, charisma and skill that is endowed in Railstars’ striker Njabulo “JB” Ncube. I am not suggesting he is my choice of soccer star. I will only come up with my list at the meeting tomorrow after deliberating and agreeing as part of council on rules of the game, eligibility and lack of it.
But the point remains JB has been one of the bright spots in local soccer this year. So has been Caps United’s Cephas Chimedza and Highlanders’ Honour Gombami, both of whom have shown maturity and ability during hard times.
Those who have been following the local premiership will also tell you that other stars have emerged, such as one Obert Moyo from Wankie, Shabanie’s Rowan Nenzou and Shadreck Malunga as well as Amazulu’s Vusimuzi Nyoni.
It would be wrong to discourage or kill such talent. On the other hand, it works well, not only for the individuals but for the larger soccer fraternity as well, to recognise them and invest in their development. That way, we would also be contributing towards the revival of the sport.
Tomorrow’s process of choosing soccer stars also remains vital in that it seeks to identify genuine role models within the soccer fraternity. The fact that one of the requirements for a player to make it onto the list of the prestigious eleven is discipline, underlines the noble intentions behind the event and awards.
Hooliganism and lack of discipline have been some of the most devious ways through which sporting talent goes to waste. It therefore works for the development of the game to have players rewarded for exemplary conduct.
Delta Corporation has been faithful and consistent in sponsoring the Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year Award and in that context provides a ray of hope. Soccer is also suffering from lack of sponsorship, among other ills.
The solution obviously wouldn’t be in discouraging the few sponsors such as Delta that are still committing their resources to the beautiful game. It is rather in showing gratitude to them, encourage them to maintain the relationship. That must be taken further to trying to bring other members of the corporate world on board.
It is encouraging that recent developments indicate a number of sponsors are interested in committing resources towards the local leagues as well as national teams.
Sponsors only put their resources into sporting disciplines or ventures that are stable and enjoy sanity. We have said it again and again. It is on that note that we should emphasise to all sports journalists that will be involved in the selection tomorrow to conduct ourselves in the highest possible professional standards. The event has in the past been marred by allegations of divisions on regional basis, favouritism and worse still corruption among sports journalists.
It has been alleged that some of the journalists — in whose hands the hopes and trust of multitudes of soccer followers are thrust — get bribes from players seeking selection. That should be discouraged in the strongest terms.
It must also be realised by the sports journalists that the task at hand goes beyond personal preferences or regional allegiances.
Dark spots taint the history of the soccer star award, which had to be suspended for some years following chaos and confusion within the sports journalists’ body.
Probably in very simple terms tomorrow’s meeting of sports journalists to choose this year’s outstanding players will go a long way in influencing the course the game of soccer will take in this country. It will either consolidate the efforts made and achieved so far towards reviving the game or add fuel to the fire.
But there is still room for the revival of the sport through the development of talent and rewarding excellence.