Local football needs pre-sold tickets

HARARE – Zimbabwe football is still operating in the dark ages judging by what transpired last week at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe champions FC Platinum were hosting South African giants Orlando Pirates in a Group B African Champions League match at the venue.

Since the draw for the group stages was conducted in December last year, this fixture had attracted the attention of the entire country.

Pirates have a huge following in Zimbabwe due to their close proximity.

This is the club that some of Zimbabwe’s best players like Innocent Chikoya, Zvenyika Makonese, Ralph Matema and, Gilbert Mushangazhike and Engelbert Dinha have turned out for during their illustrious playing careers.

In recent years, Takesure Chinyama and Tendai Ndoro has donned the famous black and white Sea Robbers jersey.

At the moment, current Warriors stars Kuda Mahachi and Marshall Munetsi are all on the books of the Buccaneers.

Pirates have also made a name for themselves on the continent by winning the African Champions League in 1955.

They also reached the final as recent as 2013 when they lost on aggregate to Egyptian giants Al Ahly.

Talking a stroll on the streets of any Zimbabwean city, you are bound to bump into someone wearing the Orlando Pirates replica jersey.

In fact, there are more Sea Robbers replicas in this country than those of Highlanders, CAPS United and Dynamos.

There is no denying that Pirates have a big following in Zimbabwe and the situation was made worse by the Confederation of African Football (Caf)’s decision to host the match at Barbourfields.

Caf deemed FC Platinum’s Mandava Stadium unfit to host high-profile matches in the African Champions League.

As a last resort, Pure Platinum Play was forced to opt for Barbourfields for all their three home group matches in the competition.

Highlanders as one of Zimbabwe’s oldest clubs, has modelled itself in Pirates image from their black and white jersey to the famous crossed bone salute their players make before the start of each match.

The announcement was greeted with huge excitement by most Bulawayo-based football lovers since they would now get a chance to watch their beloved Pirates in action.

On match day, thousands of football fans turned up at Barbourfields to witness this eagerly-anticipated encounter.

As the hosting nation, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) together with FC Platinum were responsible for match day organisation of this big encounter.

Those thousands of fans that turned up at the venue had a torrid time of trying to get into the venue since there was no advance sells of tickets.

The fans had to use electronic payment methods and cash to pay for their entry into the stadium.

Due to the challenges associated with electronic payments in this country, the process became encompassing for the supporters as the queues were long and seemed not to be moving.

It was a depressing sight to see former Warriors captain and striker Benjani Mwaruwari scaling over scaffolding as he tried to gain entry into the venue.

The former Manchester City, Portsmouth and Auxerre striker tried to hurry-scurry over the security screens to gain access into the stadium but his efforts were in vain.

“We can’t do anything,” Mwaruwari is seen talking in the video circulating on social media.

“There’s no VIP (queues), I have been waiting here for 45 minutes I want to watch Pirates versus Platinum; I’m outside and then you say we will go forward, which forward?

“We are going backwards. They should be a place for us (VIPS). You are there you are not even going inside. What kind of nonsense is this, this is rubbish.”

By the time most fans managed to get into the venue, the match had already started. Luckily for them, the two teams played out a goalless draw.

The fans did not miss any goals but imagine what would have happened if either FC platinum or Pirates had scored in those early minutes of the game.

We would have been talking of casualties and probably fatalities as stampedes would have ensured as the fans would have gotten fed up of waiting in the queues and forced their way into the venue.

For many years, local football clubs have resisted printing and selling advanced tickets ahead of matches.

Their argument is that there is a risk of forgers getting hold of these tickets and selling them on the black market. Really?

In this day and age when there are a number of web ticket companies that have sophisticated printing technology that guards against fraudsters, local football should embrace this practice.

This makes it easy to control the crowds at match venues since people will find it easy to access the stadium without waiting for a long period while the cashier tries to complete an EcoCash transaction.

Most local music shows have adopted the practice of pre-sold tickets in order to ease crowd control.

There is no justification at all for football to remain in the medieval times when sungura and Zimdancehall acts are selling advanced tickets for their shows.

Pre-sold tickets also bring a lot of accountability because there is very little room for fraud since the computer system will keep track of all sales and tickets issued out.

Another argument local teams present is that stadia owners – the city councils – want to be paid their percentage in cash on the day of the game.

This is a lame defense since all municipalities have embraced online payments.

Once all the tickets have been pre-sold, the various percentages needed to be paid out to council, Zifa and the sports and Recreation Commission can be worked out.

We cannot continue operating in this manner which is a high risk as it can result in the loss of lives.      

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