Harare’s funding of soccer team mind-boggling

01 Jul, 2022 - 00:07 0 Views
Harare’s funding of soccer team mind-boggling Lloyd Chitembwe


A FEW years ago, in 2017 to be precise, residents were happy that Harare City, the football team sponsored by the municipality at the expense of service delivery, had been relegated from Zimbabwe’s top flight soccer league. 

Residents hoped the team would just keep sinking further into oblivion until its burden on council finances also disappeared with it. But their joy was short-lived as in 2018 the City of Harare readily grabbed the opportunity to take over the franchise of How Mine Football Club, which was being bankrolled by the Matabeleland South-based gold miners.

The owners of How Mine disbanded the team to refocus their corporate social responsibility programme.

And the City of Harare, struggling to provide services to ratepayers then and now, saw it fit to grab that opportunity to bounce back into the top flight.  

Over the last couple of years, residents have been questioning the rationale behind the municipality running sporting teams at a time it cannot deliver services. The City of Harare has a fully-fledged football team competing in the country’s top league. The football enterprise is quite a huge operation with junior teams which have their own coaches and managers in addition to the first team and the reserve teams.  Harare City Football Club is known to be among some of the best paying soccer teams in Zimbabwe. 

In 2019, the team hired coach Lloyd Chitembwe on a handsome monthly salary in addition to winning bonuses and 200 litres of fuel per week. As part of the deal Chitembwe, who has since left Harare City and is back at CAPS United, was also reportedly offered a residential stand in the upmarket suburb of Borrowdale.  

Following reports of Chitembwe’s package, Harare residents wondered how the municipality could afford to reward their soccer coach with 200 litres of fuel per month when their refuse trucks could not collect garbage from residential areas and business premises citing lack of fuel. 

Three years along the way, in 2022, council is still struggling to collect refuse and residents in some parts of the city have resorted to adopting and repairing garbage collection trucks, which are dedicated to their wards.

Three years later again, the municipality plans to splurge US$2,3 million to fund Harare City FC’s needs for the second half of the local soccer season, which is the six-month period between July and December 2022. A joint report of the City of Harare’s publicity and finance committees has recommended a supplementary budget for the football team to pay players, coaches, team doctors and medics, fitness trainers and the general upkeep of the club.  

Residents have been pointing out the local authority’s decision to run and sponsor sporting teams was ill-timed given it was failing to discharge its core function of service delivery. Those in support of council’s sporting ventures have argued that the local authority was creating employment for the youths and getting them off the streets or engaging in social ills. But we have been arguing that council could play a role in the development of sport by providing its facilities such as soccer stadiums Rufaro, Gwanzura and Dzivarasekwa, the City Sports Centre for tennis and indeed numerous other facilities it has around the capital city.

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