THE promotion of Bulawayo City to the Zifa Southern Region Division One Soccer League has sadly passed on as a non-event.
This team, if it does well on the national scene, will be an effective tool to market Bulawayo. It will be an advertising medium for sport tourism, culture and even business. The team will provide entertainment for the residents as well as create employment and wealth if well managed. The base from youth clubs, lower division teams and BCC schools is so wide that the project should not fail and with proper guidance and management, the team should export talent abroad.
The city has twinning relationships with major cities like Polokwane, Durban and Aberdeen including another in China, so promoting sporting ties should not be a big challenge. Outstanding talent could be sent for trials at those cities and local athletes could participate in international events there like the Aberdeen Festival at which Peter Ndlovu was identified by Coventry in 1990.
Athletes from Bulawayo like Prodigal Khumalo, Sipho Ncube and Samukeliso Moyo could take part in the Comrades Marathon with Durban Ethekwini Municipality offering them free accommodation.
With the Pretoria Portland Cement 33 Miler on course to be an IAAF accredited race, athletes from twin-cities could also be helped when they come to run here.
The city council sponsored team’s promotion is certainly something worth celebrating. It could be the turning point for a city that has of late not been as active in the promotion of sport.
Existing clubs have their own stigmas. I am referring to Highlanders which many have tended to think it represents only Ndebeles whereas Coloureds, Shonas, Malawians and Zambians have associated with the club from its early days like Wilfred Randen whose association with Bosso dates back to 1928.
How Mine does not look like a team based in Bulawayo because of the composition of its players.
Zimbabwe Saints too at some stage appeared to have a lot of influence from those with rural links to Manicaland, Midlands and Masvingo yet sport has the singular power of being a unifier.
In the days when BCC was very active several multi-talented people like Sairota Banda, Nicholas Mavunde, Barry Daka, Silas Nyabadza, the late March Chavunduka, Augustine Ngulube and Denis Mudara worked in the sports section. They coached youths in a number of sporting disciplines like basketball, football, five-a-side football, badminton, tennis, volleyball and swimming.
Talent then used to come from Thabiso, Mzilikazi, Indlovu, Isilwane and Vulindlela.
Notably legends like Daka and Lawrence Phiri came from these clubs to dominate the football scene.
There were others who were groomed at Tshaka Youth Centre by Bright Spider like Jabulani Gombiro in boxing, Vulindlela Moyo, Clifford Makunike, Raerburn Ndebele, Mike Makunike, Sydney Dube, Vusa Mpofu, Jack Dube, Mbekezeli Mthunzi in volleyball.
During those days city council facilities were well maintained. As youths at Tshaka, we played volleyball into the night for a nominal fee almost everyday and the same went for other gyms and clubs in the city.
The promotion of Bulawayo City FC should see the local authority come up with a policy. It should not promote just football but a wide range of sporting disciplines for the benefit of residents.
What more with the legacy benefits of the Africa Union Region 5 Youth Games. Failure to fully utilise the facilities will be putting to waste government’s investment. A lot is expected in terms of direct participation by BCC in ensuring that facilities are accessible to residents and sports associations.
It’s refreshing to hear that there could be a fulltime sports administrator with a number of employees under him. If the plan is well implemented, associations will benefit a lot.
The private sector should be allowed to partner with council. There has not been a better outdoor facility for volleyball than Tshaka Youth Centre in Bulawayo. A company like Bitumen could be invited to refurbish the courts and allowed advertising for free at the venue for up to 10 years.
The refurbished courts will be used by Bulawayo residents, schools and could be a venue for national championships. Associations can also be asked to contribute towards the maintenance of the facilities.