When soccer becomes more than a game…what’s wrong with Zimbos

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By Anesu Chakanetsa

THE so-called big leagues in Europe began this month and a lot is already happening locally. 

Last week, Manchester United were decimated by the ‘small’ Brentford 4-0 and a lot of sympathy went to Manchester United fans. 

But then, an unfortunate incident happened in the northern part of Zimbabwe. 

A die-hard English football fan ‘died-hard’ because of the beautiful game.

According to a media report: “A 31-year-old football fan in Mbembesi, Matabeleland North Province, was allegedly hacked to death with a machete by a fellow villager during a dispute over an English Premier Soccer League (EPL) played last Saturday.

Vukile Nkomo was reportedly murdered after he attempted to stop an argument between his killer and his brother, Mkhululi Nkomo, over Manchester United’s performance that resulted in a 4-0 loss to Brentford.

The accused, Sthembelani Tshuma, who is facing a murder charge, is on the run. 

He is wanted by the police for questioning over the incident.

It is alleged Vukile was watching football at Fingo Bottle Store with his brother Mkhululi, the informant, the accused and other patrons.

After the match, a misunderstanding arose between the accused and Mkhululi over the outcome of the match.

Vukile and his cousin intervened so as to calm the tension between the two.

This angered the accused who then rushed home to collect his machete.

On his way back, Tshuma used a footpath which he knew his rival often used on his way home.

It is alleged that along the way, the informant and the deceased encountered the accused person carrying the machete which he used to strike the deceased several times. 

He accused Vulike of siding with his brother, Mkhululi.

The informant rushed to the shopping centre to alert others and when they returned to the scene, they found the now-deceased in a pool of blood.”

But why Zimbabweans? 

Why?

There are other several incidents where people were at each other’s throats because of the English Premier League (EPL).

The English Premier League that people watch on televisions in sports clubs and pubs has stolen the hearts and minds of Zimbabwean football fans.

Perludance Sithole, a devout Tottenham Football Club fan, says people prefer EPL to Zimbabwean football because of its scintillating graphics. 

“I don’t know the actual reason (why people prefer EPL) but probably people follow it because of the graphics and the technics that the local leagues do not have,” she said.

“The stadiums are lit and everything is well organised.” The EPL is the most watched league in the world with a viewership of over 1,2 billion, according to Goal.Com.

But the British media and the availability of diverse sponsors seems to be the main driver of this league — not actually on the field of play. 

No England coach has won the EPL since its inception. 

And the Three Lions, the English senior men’s  national team, has not put its hands on the World Cup Trophy  since 1956, the only time they did so.

But they are the producers of a league that makes people kill each other in Zimbabwe. 

They are the producers of a league that has created a new form of ‘job’ for Zimbabweans – betting. 

Like pupils going for an exam, the betting lot carry pens to place their bets. 

A few win, while many tear their tickets in frustration. 

Kudzai ‘Saha’ Mtisi, who decided to pursue his marketing career, shunning playing football, concurs with Sithole over the level of technology that the EPL boasts. 

“We prefer to watch EPL and UEFA on television because there is continuous replays after scores, celebrations, and even delayed matches rather than watching Cranborne Bullets in Vhengere Stadium where there is no television broadcast,” he said. 

“If you blink and there is a goal, you will not see the goal again, even if you try to search it on google,” he said. 

While there is not so much coherence with media hype and the type of football being played in England, the EPL remains the best, according to some.

Another football dropout, Malvin Mafuriranwa, a die-hard Chelsea fan bemoans lack of corporate sponsorship in local football that makes it less visible.

“Local football is not really eye-catching; the problem is not the players but I believe there’s need for sponsors to support local clubs financially,” he said. 

There has also been accusations of Government’s interference and FIFA banned Zimbabwe from international football on those grounds. 

But some of the most prominent teams are political, in terms of their establishment. 

General Franco, the Spanish commander who suppressed a Catalunya revolt, made Real Madrid popular. 

But the team was founded by the Royal family of Spain, hence Real (Royal) Madrid. 

To date, matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona, a  Catalan club, are still regarded as highly political matches. 

The British government took charge of Chelsea at the wake of Russian operation on Ukraine, with the former being handed massive illegal sanctions that were not shy of erstwhile Russian Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic. 

Talk of corruption, even the big guys like Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini were implicated in colossal corrupt cases. 

And Jordan Zemura of Bournemouth of Zimbabwe is the least paid in EPL.

Is this not politics?

The fans of Zimbabwe choose not to look into that. 

They follow EPL with such vigour the end up killing each other, snatching each other’s wives and losing a lot of money to betting.

Hope the Gerald Mlotshwa-led so-called restructuring committee is looking into bettering Zimbabwe football for the fans, the viewers, listeners and those who go to stadia. 

Zimbabwe Football should reach everywhere like mobile network and bring together the people of Zimbabwe. 

Those born after the turn of the millennium are rather affiliating to international teams rather than local teams.

That alone has brought a lot of decay to local football. 

It is tragic.

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