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We can make or break our Warriors

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WITH Zimbabwe emerging from the soccer wilderness, after a protracted FIFA ban, we have every reason to believe that our Warriors will not disappoint, provided our soccer administrators put their house in order. Of late, our PSL games have been characterised by poor attendances, a sure sign that there is something wrong with our football. Basically, the Warriors are not a bad side, especially for a team that was able to hold AFCON finalists, Nigeria, in a World Cup qualifier in the twilight months of 2023. But for the Warriors to perform to fans’ expectations, especially after this impressive early showing, there must be an extensive overhaul, beginning with the domestic league And it goes beyond the soccer players. The combined effort of administrators, club officials, fans, media, coaches, security personnel and referees is an absolute necessity. Soccer is a family game. Not surprisingly, one of the major reasons why attendances at football stadiums are dwindling is the sceptre of hooliganism and violence at soccer matches. Imagine going to a football match and then returning home without a concrete scoreline because the game has been called off prematurely. And yet, paradoxically, it is the very fans who parted with their hard-earned cash to watch games, who often lead to the abandonment of the match after invading the pitch. Though fans might escape injury, this is not so with their favourite club which might be heavily fined and/or forced to play in an empty home ground. Once bitten twice shy is an idiom which has seen thousands of ardent soccer fans losing interest in the beautiful game. It is gratifying, however, that during this football break soccer officials found it prudent to sit down with club officials to see how best to make football a truly people’s game. We understand an amicable solution was reached and it is our hope that the spirit of comradeship arising out of the seminars will cascade down to club members. For, it is the club members who are the embodiment of a team’s character. It is these club members and executives who lose the most when their team carries ‘a bad boy’ image. Fans will simply vote with their feet. Coaches also play a pivotal role in wooing spectators back to Rufaro, Barbourfields or the National Sports Stadium by simply making their teams play attractive football. After watching a dour game, yawning for most of the 90 minutes, you are unlikely to be persuaded to watch the same team again. These are those coaches who tend to pack their defences (ostensibly to avoid an embarrassing defeat), leaving very little action going forward; ‘parking the bus’, they call it. We will not go very far in international competitions with that kind of attitude, let alone convince soccer fans to part with their hard-earned cash week in, week out. Those responsible for maintaining security at football matches are expected to be vigilant at all times — before, during and soon after the final whistle. There is no reason why fans should not be subjected to body searches, humiliating as they may be. This is because, after pitch invasions, among the debris are some potentially lethal missiles which would have found their way onto the terraces concealed in satchels and other personal accessories. It is the job of ground security personnel to keep their eyes on the terraces, and not on the game in progress. In other words, this means turning their backs to the action on the pitch. Last, but not least, the usual scapegoat for the losing team is the referee. But let’s not forget that referees undergo special training for them to qualify to officiate at football matches. But, alas, everyone — be it the coaches, fans, players, club members, club executives or media — being no saints either, tend to usurp the duties of the referee. On the other hand, referees, though human, must try, by all means, to be seen to be fair in their judgments at all times. On too many occasions, violence has flared up after blatantly unfair decisions by the referee. Good refereeing adds to the smooth flow of a game along with the resultant excitement. Needless to say, all of us — club executives, club members, fans, coaches, security personnel and referees, among others — have a crucial role to play in the moulding of a formidable Warriors team. The ball is in our court.

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