Mutare in mourning

THE year 2016 was a bleak one for football lovers domiciled in Zimbabwe’s third largest city after its sole representative in the Premier Soccer League, Mutare City Rovers was relegated.

The Eastern Highlands’ only other hope of seeing their football talent blossom in the top tier league at the local citadel of soccer — Sakubva Stadium — was all but lost when Buffaloes also failed to win promotion back into the big boys’ club.

Buffaloes were relegated at the end of the 2015 season while Mutare City won the Eastern Region Division One league to gain promotion into the PSL.

Watungwa Watungwa enjoyed a good run at the top of the Eastern Region Division One log for the better part of last season but unfortunately lost out on promotion to Yadah FC.

For Mutare folk to watch top flight football in 2017, they will need to travel to Harare some 263km away.
A smaller town like Zvishavane is likely to have two teams in the PSL with Shabanie Mine coming in to join FC Platinum depending on the outcome of the impasse between the Zimbabwe Football Association and the PSL.

This current situation is hard to swallow for the Mutare football-mad population which over the years has seen some of their own sons like Webster Kurwaisimba, the late Blessing “Yogo Yogo” Makunike, Blessing Gumiso, Willard Katsande, Pheneas Arubi, Washington Arubi, Liberty Chakoroma, Joseph “Shabba” Tangaringofa, the Kabwe brothers etc. all made their names at Sakubva.
   
The Weekend Post spoke to a number of football fans in the border town, who all expressed their disappointment with Mutare’s lack of representation in the top tier league in 2017.

“This was a bad season for local football. Although I support Highlanders, I always cherished attending its games from here because this is where I now work after growing up in Bulawayo where I’ve always watched its home matches from my days in primary school,” Thabiso Sibanda said.

Another football lover, who was in Mutare for the Christmas holiday, John Madamombe expressed sadness at Manicaland’s failure to have representation in the 2017 PSL.

“It’s very sad for such a province not to be represented on the premier football fraternity of this country,” he said.
“I hail from Manicaland and I know that it has a lot of untapped talent that should find expression through a local team.”

Stewart Kuhudzai, a teacher on the outskirts of Mutare, said the demotion of Mutare City Rovers and failure of Buffaloes to win promotion needed introspection by local soccer fans who he said are major stakeholders in the sport.

“This essentially means we do not value soccer as people of Mutare. If we were watching soccer matches we would have been financing these teams and with better finances you can attract better players and produce stronger performances,” Kuhudzai said.

Both teams were battling financial woes throughout the season as they almost always played before near empty stadia.

Jane Midzi, a vendor who often traded her wares during games at Sakubva, said the absence of any team was necessary to sober locals.

“I personally think that this was a necessary evil. People here should learn to support local clubs by at least attending matches. Even Dynamos fans need to know that they also have to play their part in supporting local teams if they are to see their favourite stars coming down here,” she said.

“Everyone took it for granted that we would always see Premier League football at Sakubva but it takes everyone’s contribution in a relatively small city like ours.”? —
Bernard Chiketo  in MUTARE

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