Herentals FC dreams big

HARARE - If you cannot dream big in this world, well then, what is the point?

Zifa Northern Region Division One side, Herentals have only just won promotion to the Castle Lager Premiership League, but they are aiming much higher than that.

With promotion sealed, the next chapter in their journey is to establish themselves as a Premiership team for many years to come.

Herentals do not really have an illustrious football history.

Formed six years ago as part of the Harare Social League, the team spent only three years in Division One after acquiring a franchise from Bindura United.

And having missed promotion last season to eventual winners Black Rhinos, the School Boys as Herentals are fondly known, clinched promotion into the top flight league last month with seven matches to spare.

“I can simply sum it up by the term: ecstatic!” Innocent Benza, who is the owner of the team together with his twin brother Gerald told the Daily News on Sunday.

“We are very happy. That has always been our target since we decided to buy a franchise from Bindura United in Division One.

“We have always been targeting  the Premiership and we are very happy.”

While most teams have struggled to gain instant promotion from the lower division to the top flight, Herentals were only there for three seasons.

“It has been a tough journey for us. During our first year in Division One three seasons ago, we finished in tenth place, I think largely due to inexperience,” Innocent said.

“The second season we finished second behind Black Rhinos and it gave us a lot of encouragement that we can achieve it.

“We learnt from our mistakes, corrected them and now we have managed to gain promotion. It has been a long journey, difficult but we are really pleased that we managed to make it.”

Innocent is no ordinary club owner though.

While most proprietors like to assume a distant role up in the VIP box, Innocent leads his troops from the front on the pitch.

At 45, the businessman defied his age as he played a leading role in the team’s quest for promotion.

He featured in almost 80 percent of his team’s matches and has been credited for creating several scoring opportunities for his side.

Innocent is not expecting to hang up his boots anytime soon and is looking forward to his maiden dance in the top flight.

“Playing in the Premiership has always been my ambition. I want to play in the Premiership,” he said.

“My target is to continue playing until I am about 50 or 51 in the Premiership.

“I am 45 and will be turning 46 next year. It means I still have at least four-five years ahead of me to play soccer and I am very sure that we will survive in the Premiership during this period.”

Innocent sees himself as the School Boys’ playmaker and is certain he will flourish in the top flight.

“I am a creative player and I have had more than ten assists in the past season and I am looking forward for a dance in the Premiership,” he said.

“My creative abilities will not be lost because I am now in the Premiership. I am a very confident man.”

Football in the second tier is very different from the level in the Premiership.

At the moment all the four teams promoted last season —Bantu Rovers, Yadah FC, Shabanie Mine and Black Rhinos — are in danger of getting relegated.

“We are very excited about the prospects of facing Dynamos, Highlanders, CAPS United and other Premiership teams,” Innocent said.

“The good thing is that some of these teams we usually play against them during the off season and we are not fazed at all because football is the same.”

Herentals will also keep the bulk of the players they had in the lower league and will not go on a spending spree.

“Our immediate target and from experience we know that when you get into a new league the first thing is to learn,” Innocent said.

“So in this case we are coming in to learn first then we can revise our targets after that.

“We are going to carry the same material that we have into the league.

“We have quite a youthful side with some players being as young as 16 years. My son is also playing and he is 16 and we have some other guys who are 20 years and below.

“We are a school-based team and we believe in learning.

“When we started in Division One people warned us of the need to have experienced players but we took our players from social league and here they have taken us.

“Our coaches say they want to maintain the core of the team and probably promote some from our B team.

“We have a wide selection base because we run about 33 schools and there is a lot of talent there.

“I think it will be very unfair to our potential players at schools and our other team in Division Two for us to start bringing in new players.”

No changes will be made to the technical team either as Innocent retains a lot of faith in coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva and his assistants.

“The same applies to our technical team. There is not going to be any changes,” Innocent said.

“We have very qualified coaches in...Mutiwekuziva and his assistant Paul Benza.

“They are both holders of Caf A licences so we are fully equipped.

“We also have an experienced goalkeeper’s coach Tsungie Mudzamiri and there is no need for us to add anyone. We are very satisfied with our current set-up.”

Innocent also gave a little bit of history on the team’s formation.

“Prior to Division One, we were playing in Harare Social League. Whilst there it appeared we no longer had enough competition because we were beating all our opponents, week in week out,” he said.

“That’s when we got advice from some of our friends like Moses Chunga to turn professional.

“That’s when we bought the franchise from Bindura United which was playing in Division One.

Comments (1)

tinoti makorokoto

g40 - 8 October 2017

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.