Western Pirates' Xmas wish

HARARE - While many teenagers are dreaming of receiving smart phones or gaming systems this Christmas, 16 sprouting footballers from Kadoma have made a modest wish.

Tired of being unheard, the teenage footballers made the ultimate sacrifice last week and spoke with their feet, walking 145km from the mining town to Harare in demonstration against a lack of sponsorship in junior football.

It was a journey of toil as they slept in the open before they sluggishly arrived in the capital on Saturday. Still, their journey is not complete.

They stopped bystanders to ask for directions to Number 53 Livingstone Avenue — the long-abandoned Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) headquarters.

You could not fault them for being oblivious of the fact that the Zifa headquarters have since moved to president Philip Chiyangwa’s Enterprise Road offices.

Exhausted and fatigued, their request was not for food but for sponsorship.

“If we had everything we would not have demonstrated like we have done,” Western Pirates coach Motshani Nyoni told the Daily News.

“This is a demonstration to the nation. There is no one willing to help us. That’s why we decided to demonstrate and show the nation that we have identified the talent but no one is willing to contribute.”

One of the side’s players, left back Lazarus Mafunga, narrated their ordeal, explaining how four of his teammates failed to complete the gruelling journey by foot.

“We left Kadoma three days ago and then walked until we slept at a railway station in Chegutu,” Mafunga said.

“We then walked to Norton, slept there, we got up, walked until we got to the (Harare) showgrounds. Unfortunately some did not complete the journey.”

Nyoni said they had distributed flyers to various corporates informing them about the walk and pleading for their assistance but all their efforts had hit a brick wall so far.

Their plea for assistance resonates with many of Zimbabwe’s sporting disciplines which are struggling to get by in the face of a deteriorating political and economic climate.

While corporates in foreign countries scramble to reward top class athletes, local corporates have rarely splashed their names on deserving Zimbabwean sports personalities.

Rather, many corporates have been shedding non-core activities in a bid to stay afloat leaving sport out in the cold.

The situation has been grimmer for other minority sports such as swimming, tennis, hockey and triathlon.

Parents, who are going for months without receiving salaries, have had to go out of their way and foot air tickets for their children to go on international assignments, while national Treasury professes being ‘‘broke’’.

In part, Zimbabwe’s sport has been its own enemy. None has been a bigger example in 2016 as has been the sour relations between Zifa and the Premier Soccer League (PSL).

The two bodies have been at each other’s throats since October’s Zifa Annual General Meeting where councillors voted to relegate four teams from the PSL instead of two.

It has brewed chaos in a system that had been set way before the season begun.

Now Delta Beverages, the league’s main sponsors, are threatening not to renew their deal with the top flight league.

Just close by, strife continues to rock Zimbabwe Cricket surrounding contractual issues and non-payment of dues which has become largely responsible in shaping the decision of the country’s next generation of stars.

But the gory picture has not weathered the faith of these young footballers from Kadoma.

They are convinced somewhere between the dark clouds is their silver lining.

Until they receive sponsorship, they are willing to continue walking to get the attention of potential funders.

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