Is football a thankless industry?

14 Jan, 2023 - 00:01 0 Views
Is football a thankless industry? Bulawayo Chiefs players

The Chronicle

Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
REPORTS of financial challenges that befell Bulawayo Chiefs FC starting mid-year in 2021, leading to players and staff going for months without pay have damaged the club’s brand.

Chiefs, the country’s most followed football club on Twitter with almost 80 000 followers were arguably the social media kings, bringing excitement to the domestic football with their “twars” (twitter wars) that kept audiences captivated.

Through their impressive interactive content, Chiefs had managed to draw sympathisers as they sought to grow their fan base which was, however, not a reflection of the huge following on Twitter.

The club would show off their lovely set dressing rooms ahead of Premiership games, but all those impressive settings on social media went up in smoke when financial problems started to surface at Amakhosi Amahle.

Between June and November when they won their maiden topflight silverware, the Chibuku Super Cup after beating Herentals 1-0 at Barbourfields Stadium, Chiefs management concentrated their energy on dousing in-house flames as players threatened boycotts and at times went for matches having trained only once.

Bulawayo Chiefs Village. (Picture: Eliah Saushoma)

The brand “Bulawayo Chiefs” suffered a huge knock, while the club’s benefactor Lovemore Sibanda remained tightlipped as he worked on looking for resources to clear outstanding salaries. Reports from the Chiefs camp are that the club started clearing players’ outstanding salaries in batches and could be done with the exercise next week.

Chiefs, established in 2012, as an offspring of Emakhandeni Pirates first won the Southern Region title in their second year into the First Division, in 2013. They then sold the Premiership franchise to now defunct Bantu Rovers under the guise of a partnership.

They went back to regroup, with their director Sibanda, a local businessman with interests in farming and mining defying economic challenges to keep the club afloat at a time when most individually-owned teams collapsed.


The club won the Southern Region title in 2017, and this time around they kept their franchise. Chief went on to hog the limelight as giant killers in the Premiership claiming the scalps of champions FC Platinum, Chicken Inn, Dynamos and Highlanders.

In the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Chiefs fought relegation from the start of the season, first finishing both seasons with identical 41 points. In their debut season, they ended the championship on position 12 and were ended 13th the following season.

They did manage to save their PSL status twice with relatively unknown players, with their ability to use unheralded players to bring down giants like Highlanders, FC Platinum and Chicken Inn earning them recognition from neutrals.


Over the years, Chiefs managed to bring to the limelight, players like forward Perfect Chikwende who made his national team mark by scoring the solitary goal against Botswana in the penultimate Afcon 2021 qualifier group match. That goal sealed Zimbabwe’s qualification for the fifth Afcon finals gave Chiefs director satisfaction.

Striker Farau Matare and utility player Shadreck Nyahwa who was snapped up by Dynamos, found their way into the Chan finals squad that participated in Cameroon at the beginning of the year, something that Chiefs owner took pride in that his club had done well to impart positive influence in the lives of youngsters.

Midfielder Ransome Pavari who is a vital cog at FC Platinum, defender Polite Moyo who is at Ngezi Platinum Stars, leftback Brandon Mpofu (Dynamos) and midfielder Gracious Muleya who is in the books of Black Rhinos are some of Chiefs’ products.

FC Platinum Players (Picture by Nkosizile Ndlovu)

But for the 2021/22 season, Chiefs decided to go big, bringing in experienced players who didn’t come cheap as they reportedly blew a purse of US$400 000 before the season ended.

Overspending in the transfer market could have been their biggest let-down even though they went on to cap the season with a Chibuku Super Cup.

They brought in the likes of former national team players Kelvin Madzongwe, Ian Nekati, Kevin Moyo, Elvis Moyo, Chikwende who returned from Tanzania’s Simba SC and Obriel Chirinda. It was good that they beefed up their squad and the players bargained in contract negotiations, but Chiefs executives should shoulder the blame for departing on their vision of producing players and opting for seasoned players who don’t come cheap.

Chibuku Super Cup

Allegations of underhand dealings surfaced as some members of the management were said to have received kickbacks in signing some players.

Without supporting clubs for not paying players, it is right to give credit and acknowledge contributions made by people like Sibanda who use their funds to bankroll clubs yet they get nothing in return.

If Sibanda had invested the money he put in football elsewhere, it would have multiplied, with his business empire expanding.

But his passion for football has drawn him negative publicity.

Delma Lupepe

No sponsor or football benefactor wants to be associated with bad publicity. Even potential football partners get scared away from the sport in fear of having their brands mutilated.

In the last 20 years, at least 23 individually owned clubs that graced the modern Premier Soccer League have gone extinct.

Former champions Amazulu which was owned by Delma Lupepe went down in 2005. Other clubs that won the championship within the last two decades that collapsed are Monomotapa, Gunners and Motor Action.

Bantu Rovers which provided a platform to a number of players who include Marvelous Nakamba, Teenage Hadebe, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Elvis and Kevin Moyo among others also faced financial challenges and folded.


Masvingo United that was bankrolled by the late businessman Tanda Taruvinga, popularly known as Mhunga, Buymore which later became Caps FC and was funded by former Zifa president Cuthbert Dube, Thomas Mapfumo’s Sporting Lions, Quelaton who were owned by Tawanda Ruzive and Njube Sundowns – an acting Zifa president Gift Banda project – all went down.

Hardbody of Gweru, Beitbridge’s Underhill and Tripple B, Tsholotsho FC, Douglas Warriors and FC Victoria are other individually owned clubs that collapsed but they managed to give a platform for footballers to expose their talent..

It is important to salute all the people who took their personal funds to bankroll clubs that have given exposure to young talent.

Tsholotsho FC

As the 2023 season prepares to take off, there are six – Caps United, Yadah, Herentals, Sheasham, Chiefs and Simba Bhora – PSL clubs funded by individuals and we hope they will be able to sail through the stormy demands. — @ZililoR

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