By Eddie Chikamhi
HARARE giants Dynamos and Charity Shield sponsors NetOne are set to iron out sharp differences which poisoned their relationship last year and ended up tainting the season-opening tournament.
NetOne have promised a bigger and better Charity Shield this year despite the serious challenges that rocked the tourney last season leading the sponsors to withhold the winners’ cheque from Dynamos.
The Glamour Boys yesterday snubbed the function organised by NetOne, but the two parties are now set to meet today to find common ground and a way forward. Dynamos officials chose not to attend the presentation ceremony for the proceeds generated from last year’s final to charity organisations.
DeMbare are the current holders of the NetOne Charity Shield, but the club did not send representatives when the sponsors handed over assistance for self-help projects to 14 children’s homes from around the country.
Dynamos won the Charity Shield last year when they beat Motor Action 2-1 at the National Sports, but they did not receive their prize money following a heated row over the branding of playing shirts, which also sucked in the club’s sponsors BancABC.
The match was played under a cloud and DeMbare were docked their US$50 000 prize money after failing to comply with the tournament rules on shirt branding.
Club vice-chairman Webster Chikengezha yesterday said the Harare giants chose to stay away from the handover ceremony in protest, as they were still seeking clarification from the sponsors over their prize money which was withheld following the row.
“We received the invitation but we did not come because we have some outstanding issues emanating from last year,” said Chikengezha.
“We have been seeking clarification from them (NetOne) for some time now but they have not responded to our issue. So, we are now hoping to engage them tomorrow (today) because all along we have been going through PSL and now it will be direct.”
However, NetOne managing director Reward Kangai yesterday could not dwell much on the issue but insisted the DeMbare players and technical team would get “tokens of appreciation” for their participation last year.
NetOne, who entered a three-year contract with the Premier Soccer League in 2011, have sponsored the last two editions, which featured Dynamos and Motor Action, with the Glamour Boys winning both finals.
Despite running into problems last season, the cellular network provider have pledged to come on board again and probably extend their sponsorship into the future after working out their differences with the Premier Soccer League.
The season-opening tournament has been growing in stature with last year’s event running to the tune of US$250 000, from US$200 000 the previous year.
Kangai revealed the Charity Shield will take a new format this year as four teams, chosen by the supporters, will take part in the tournament which promises to be bigger this season.
The tournament usually features the reigning league champions and the winners of the main Cup tournament but sponsors have changed the criteria for selection of the participating teams by involving the supporters.
Kangai said four teams that amass the biggest number of votes, through their sms platform, will battle it out for a place in the final. The dates and venues will be announced in due course as they are dependent on the final four teams to take part in the tournament.
Dynamos, because of their popularity, are virtually guaranteed a place in the tournament and so are Highlanders with CAPS United also set to make the grade. Who joins them, as the fourth team, remains to be seen.
Given that DeMbare are set to participate in the Charity Shield again this year, on the back of an expected big number of votes, the sponsors appear willing to bury the hatchet and extend an olive branch to the champions.
That could see Dynamos getting the rights to wear their BancABC branded jersey in the tournament while NetOne will stitch their logo or name at the back of the jersey.
It’s an arrangement that has to work because DeMbare are also set to face a similar challenge if they are to access the US$150 000 subsidy, for participation in the Champions League, which they were offered by Mbada Diamonds for winning the Mbada Diamonds Cup.
Mbada Diamonds will certainly require some prominence, on the DeMbare jersey, to go with their package.
The Glamour Boys used their BancABC branded kit in the Mbada Diamonds Cup last year, with the sponsors agreeing to stitch their logo at the back of the jersey, but it could be a different case in Africa.
Interestingly, Tunisian giants Esperance, have more than one sponsor on the front part of their jersey but here in Zimbabwe this is virtually off limits for clubs and has caused serious problems.
DeMbare badly need the money because they have been struggling to finance their projects and can’t pay for the players they have targeted, with one still marooned in Uganda and waiting for his air ticket to arrive, while securing a training ground has been a challenge.
Something will have to give in and NetOne were yesterday bullish that their tournament will proceed as expected this year. “NetOne has also revised the format for holding the competition in this year’s edition of the NetOne Charity Shield,” said Kangai.
“To make the tournament more exciting and give an opportunity to more people to participate on raising funds for charity we have facilitated for the fans to select the teams of their choice by voting through sms for their favourite Castle Lager Premier Soccer League team.
“The short code to be used for voting is 38080.”
NetOne yesterday disbursed the proceeds from last year’s match and the event was attended by PSL chairman Twine Phiri, Eric Rosen, who is also the director at Motor Action and officials from the top-flight league.
Kangai said their efforts were in line with their social responsibility programme of uplifting lives among the underprivileged children.
“The NetOne Charity Shield soccer match between Dynamos and Motor Action was successfully held on Sunday 18 March, 2012, and as promised NetOne would donate the net proceeds from the match to charitable causes.
“This is in line with the donations we also made last year to the Touch a Child’s Heart Initiative, which NetOne founded years ago,” said Kangai. The Herald