With these words David Coltart, the Minister of Education, Sport and Culture, directed the Sports and Recreation Commission to stage national soccer matches outside Harare. My spontaneous reaction as I came across this was – Bravo Mr Coltart! Having lived in Johannesburg for the past four years, I have seen South African national teams, including the senior men’s national side, play in all provinces.
I have travelled to the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and Durban’s Moses Mabhida, flown to the Cape Town Stadium in the Mother City and the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane to watch Bafana Bafana in action, recognising the importance of all supporters. The gesture by the South African Football Association to decentralise the national teams has made it appeal to every South African. When the team wins, the whole country celebrates, and when it loses, the feeling of despair engulfs the whole of South Africa.
Someone has at last awakened the supreme sporting body to the fact that a fan living at Number 4 in the hot mining town of Hwange, Mkoba in Gweru, Makokoba in Bulawayo, Mhlotshana in Victoria Falls and Dulibadzimu in Beitbridge is as important as their counterpart in Mbare/Msika, Harare.
This will not power the Warriors above Spain in terms of performance, but will make them resonate with every soccer fan’s mind and make them truly national. A child from Binga’s Siabuwa is very eager to see Knowledge Musona turn defenders inside-out at the Colliery Stadium, just as one from Luveve would love to be sent in frenzy as Khama Billiat rattles the nets in national team colours at Barbourfields Stadium.
There are many Zimbabwean adults who never got the opportunity to watch Peter Ndlovu in action in his international career that spanned 15 years and saw him bang in more than 30 goals, yet they wished to. It is also beyond debate that most Zimbabweans, especially in the western region, would rather identify with Bafana Bafana than the Warriors because they feel shunned.
This is a negative that Coltart’s directive, if followed, will effectively address. Some businessmen outside Harare do not find reason to sponsor the national team because they stand to gain no mileage from its games if they continue to be played only in Harare, away from the target markets. Development of not only soccer stadia, but the road network and hospitality infrastructure in the provinces will also follow.
It boggles the mind why the SRC has not seen this before. Comically, when the Warriors lost 0-1 to Guinea in a World Cup qualifier this year, the National Sports Stadium turf was criticised, yet this same could have been avoided by shifting the game to another venue.Post published in: Football