Manicaland Diamonds FC to fight for honours

HARARE - New boys from Mutare, Manicaland Diamonds Football Club believe they are in the top-flight football in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to stay and win trophies.

The club’s secretary-general,  Sugar Chagonda said the fact that Manicaland Diamonds FC never lost a single match and only drawing four games in Division One last season meant that they were not push overs at all.

“As a team we are new in PSL, in football because this was our first year in Division One and the fact that we won promotion speaks volumes of our adequate human resources and quality of players although we would be boosting our club.

“We know we are joining the big boys but will not be push overs; we are ready, we just have to acclimatise and we will be equal to the task ahead,” said Chagonda in an interview with the Daily News.

He added that as a team they are happy and excited as the outfit was created as a corporate social responsibility project meant to uplift the talent of many youngsters in the province.

“People in Manicaland are happy to be associated with the team, as you know everyone wants to be associated with good things.”

Chagonda, 41, said his team will be heavily involved in junior football development as this will create a feeder into the senior team.

He said they have a grassroots policy and they expect to roll it out soon, hence their appointment of Lazarus Muhoni who will be responsible for junior football. 

He sees great potential and abundant talent in junior players. “But they are disgruntled and they do not see the reason to play football professionally. Their skills should be harnessed and there has to be sponsorship at all levels.

“We will have a vibrant junior policy; will be involved in schools sports development and last season we were using Mutare Boys’ school facility until we find an alternative, but I am happy to say we have managed to upgrade the schools’ grounds and we will continue to do so.

“It is not only football that we will concentrate on but also all sports across the divide that needs our support; be it netball or athletics.

“We also sponsor sporting tournaments for schools and we have the Diamond Super Cup which we introduced last season; we have it again this season.”

Chagonda, who is also the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company (ZCDC) head of public relations said his company’s dream was to develop a competitive team to market Manicaland and the diamonds they mine through football and creating opportunities for youngsters.

“Remember when we formed the team we had to scout players from the region although we had to pick complementary players elsewhere as the team has to be national. But we are happy that the team has been well received.”

A former public relations and communications manager with Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Chagonda said even while serving with the tourism authority they continued to do projects linked with football as they knew its potential of bringing people together. 

“As ZTA head of corporate affairs I managed to facilitate an understanding with Zifa and we were heavily involved when Zimbabwe brought in the Brazilian soccer team and later hosted the legends game. With football we managed to manage perceptions and portray destinations; we believed in the power of football.”

He was happy that he recently won the ticket to the Zifa board and thanks the Eastern Highlands football family for seconding and supporting him. 

“They approached me to stand and I accepted. They were happy with my involvement in football in the region. 

“You cannot separate football from the corporate world; so they also believed that my involvement in the corporate world will help uplift the game here. 

“They showed confidence in me and I will work hard to improve football standards in Manicaland. I have the administrative skills and this will help contribute at national level.”

Chagonda said the main issue he will push at Zifa is the organisation’s brand. 

“In the not so past, Zifa’s brand was not good in the eyes of the corporate world, the brand was weak. 

“For any entity to gain traction there has to be a good name and I will work with my colleagues in the board together with the president and his deputy to create a brand that is trusted and gives people hope.

“Issues to do with sponsorship have to be dealt with as Zimbabwe football is struggling to lure sponsorship because there is no trust. A public entity like Zifa has to be trusted, well run because that is what sponsors want. Sponsors have to outbid each other to sponsor us and not run away.

“It is not healthy to continue running around with a begging bowel as Zifa. We need a good name to be trusted and we have to improve on our corporate governance systems and structures. That way we will get better returns and Zimbabweans would again have interest in the game,” said Chagonda.

He added though that they have to urgently engage government for support. All these countries doing well in terms of football and national teams is because they are sponsored by government.

“There is need for Zifa to engage government and see how the organisation can fit in the 2023 vision. Our programmes and progress has to fit in the national discourse; what is it that we want to achieve by 2023 as Zifa and how does it fit in government’s vision. 

“We need to develop programmes that contribute to national goals and above all Zifa has to have a strategic plan in place.”

He added that the national teams have to be well resourced and as such a budget has to be worked for teams from the juniors to the seniors.

“Without proper sponsorship structures our junior football will not develop at all. The girl-child has to be catered for as well and women football should be sponsored just like the men’s teams. 

“We have to uplift women’s football so as to benchmark other countries that are doing well in that area.”

The issue of players’ welfare is another area Chagonda feels needs much attention. “We have former players that continue to wallow in poverty and while they retired from the game they are denied platforms through which they can contribute. Even in the Diaspora we have a lot of Zimbabweans who love to contribute to our game and we need to tap in.”

Chagonda’s love of football started way back when he was still at Highfield Primary School in Harare where he played for the area zone juniors. “My name is well known in that area and I used to rub shoulders with the likes of George Nechironga and Silver Chigwenjere among others. Those players inspired and natured my footballing talent.

“My father, Ray Chagonda a former policeman was also a football player and he helped form several clubs in the suburb. At one time I once played with him in the same team.”

Chagonda said his father sent him to boarding school in Gutu because “I was always outside playing football and not concentrating on any school.

“But even in Gutu I continued to play football and later joined a Division 2 side Nyika United after being identified by businessman Mutema. I later joined Gutu Leopards and also contributed to the formation of FC Victoria. I was also involved heavily with Black Rhinos when I was still working with the army. At the team headed by Brigadier-General Majaji, I used to mobilise funds for the team.”

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