Football admins should wake up

HARARE - While discussing the way football clubs are run in Zimbabwe, a colleague took time to show me an article from The Guardian.

It is about a team, which is run professionally and has set values that are culture-specific.

“Athletic Bilbao are almost entirely reliant on their academy for players yet they have never been relegated from La Liga.

“The club’s reliance on local talent starts at their training ground in Lezama, which was opened in 1971 and now hosts the first team, the women’s teams and their various academy sides.”

Some of the testimonies by academy players, staff and even senior players show how clubs like Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United (who we usually refer to as the football giants in the country) have remained stuck in the past and are regressing instead of taking the lead in developing local talent.

Imagine, these giants still rely on buying players every season and end up entangled in player disputes over unpaid signing-on fees and non-payment of salaries.

While it is a welcome relief they are getting something from sponsors — it is crucial that those running these clubs do a thorough soul searching and find ways of professionally turning around the fortunes of these clubs.

When current Highlanders coach Madinda Ndlovu took over at Highlanders, he had the guts to axe some senior players there while promoting some juniors.

This is the kind of progress, we expect and which must be supported in football.

But that is not enough.

These traditional giants must come up with self-sustaining business models taking advantage of their passionate supporters’ allegiance.

During the Uefa (summer) transfer window, Italian giants Juventus had the nerve to knick superstar Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid and for a staggering fee for that matter.

It left many in the football circles shocked.

He’s not getting any younger at 33 years.

So why spend so much money on an ageing player who probably has a few more years at the top?

It’s simply because they have a vision and they knew exactly how they were going to recoup the amount which they did according to reliable reports and in a very, very simple manner for that matter.

Tens of thousands of CR7 replica jerseys were sold a few days after it was officially announced he had agreed to join.

Juxtapose this with how passionately Bosso supporters went out of their way to convince the executive to re-sign their former player Prince Dube.

They even contributed to the cause, which is a big lesson to the executive.

It makes sense, especially considering he is their academy product who understands the values, though not so glamorous, of the club.

Imagine how many replica jerseys could Bosso have sold as soon as they had an agreement with Prince in place?

But I have searched the whole of Harare, checked with a few friends in the sporting fraternity — replica jerseys for our footballing giants in Zimbabwe are nowhere to be found.

In this day and age, these teams struggle to make ends meet yet they don’t have shops selling their team products?

And the executive thinks it’s normal?

This culture of crying for bailouts and handouts should stop. Teams with such huge followings must find a way of generating money for smooth running.

And going forward they should realise it is disheartening to find out one can easily access replica jerseys, cups, scarfs and many other things for English, Spanish or Italian teams yet cannot access the same for their local teams.

Take a look at clubs across the Limpopo.

Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs and Bloemfontein Celtic, for example, have probably the most passionate supporters in South Africa and they are run in such a way that even if they are not performing well, their supporters still rally behind them and sponsors naturally come on board.

Our local teams must make strides in trying to move with the times and the executive must stop running our beloved clubs like backyard tuck-shops.

This is serious business, which needs a more focused approach and a sustainable vision.

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