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Sharuko: Mbada not a ‘Cup of shame’

By Robson Sharuko

Three years ago Motor Action were crowned champions of Zimbabwe football and, in an era where there was no sponsorship for the league championship, the club did not receive even a cent for their phenomenal achievement.

Robson Sharuko
Robson Sharuko

The following year, the Mighty Bulls represented the country in the Caf Champions League, in an expensive national service adventure bankrolled by Liz and Eric Rosen, which blew holes into their funding reservoir, from which the club hasn’t recovered, and has had a huge bearing on their alarming decline into a team fighting for its survival.

In 2011, just a year after being crowned champions, Motor Action were runners-up in the Mbada Diamonds Cup and received US$50 000, a US$150 000 subsidy to foot the costs of playing in the 2012 Caf Confederation Cup and US$50 000 in winning bonuses for every game they won on the continent.

They also received branded kits including blazers, shirts, training kit, warm-up kit and casual wear and 30 match balls and, suddenly, there was a cool US$300 for each player, if they won a match on the continent, and US$100 for a draw.

For a team that had endured so much in 2011, carrying the financial load of flying the country’s flag on the continent alone on their shoulders, and seeing this cripple the club’s finances, the contrast was startling.

However, someone feels all that investment that was pumped into the Mighty Bulls, to try and shape them into a competitive team that could fly the national flag higher, was money that was being channelled down the drain.

And that Motor Action are just a small part of the huge family of domestic football that has been helped by the massive investment made by Mbada Diamonds puts into context the madness represented by the argument presented by those who have jumped into the trenches to fight this company’s involvement in football.

Farai Maguwu and his Centre for Natural Resource Governance has taken his fight to the football fields by claiming that Mbada Diamonds have got their priorities totally misplaced by investing in football and uses obscure and erroneous graphics, in which he tries to abuse the Marange community as his shield.

There is even suggestion that the Mbada Diamonds Cup is a ‘Cup of Shame.’

Just recently, a team of reporters toured Arda Transau, where he claims people are being condemned to abject poverty while money is being poured into football, and they saw the income-generating projects being spearheaded by Mbada Diamonds for the people it relocated.

They saw additional classroom blocks at Wellington Primary school, which cater for increase in enrolment, which is in sharp contrast to Maguwu’s allegations that the school is incomplete and poorly resourced.

This is not withstanding the fact that the families receive food stuffs every quarter of the year. I’m not sure if Maguwu is a football fan but one doesn’t need to be a supporter to appreciate that the Mbada Diamonds Cup has been a game changer in the country’s national sport.

The tournament is just but part of a portfolio of Mbada Diamonds’ massive corporate social responsibility programmes that have helped change lives in Marange with hundreds of families now having access to safe water, thanks to more than 25 bore holes being sunk and rehabilitated, sound agriculture programmes and income generating projects among others.

The company has partnerships with the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, meant to boost the agricultural skills of the relocated families, and the Scientific IResearch Development Corporation to help the locals with knowledge on chicken rearing in view of running ambitious chicken projects.

Maguwu needs to be reminded that diamonds are for every Zimbabwean and that is why Mbada Diamonds have been investing heavily in education, sport, health and many other sectors that touch the hearts and mind of everyone who calls himself or herself a citizen of this country.

The company’s initiative certainly can be taken as a good example of sound corporate citizenship but, of course, that leaves room for improvement. The Mbada Diamonds Cup has been a revelation because it has breathed the spirit of knockout football, which used to be seen in the old days of the Castle Cup, with matches being played across the country and fans, including some who don’t regularly go to our football stadiums, being lured by the sponsors decision to charge just US$1 for the cheapest ticket.

It has been revolutionary — teams don’t have to spend a cent to play in the tournament, they receive branded kit, allowances, transport and accommodation costs and if they can win, they get a fat cheque and a subsidy to fly the national flag on the continent.

Mbada Diamonds’ motto is harnessing diamonds for the people and, in their investment in the national game where they have given every player in the Premiership a fair chance to take a crack at the richest prize in the game, and every fan a chance to watch the matches, they seem to be also harnessing football for the people.

Then you have the downstream industries that have emerged around this tournament and vendors selling sadza, roasted maize, groundnuts and frozen drinks at football stadiums possibly don’t mean much to people like Maguwu. No other mining company, big or small, has committed itself to the development of football in this country the way Mbada Diamonds have done.

Maguwu appears to feel that sport is not important but, as the Dream Team showed in the ‘90s and the Warriors showed when they qualified for the Nations Cup in 2004 and 2006, football is a very strong tool to bringing together a nation.

To hatch, nurture and develop talent has become paramount and the increasing number of companies that are engaged in sponsorship of sport has helped both the traditional and new roles of sports development.

Mbada Diamonds deserve full scores on this one and that Maguwu’s attack comes ahead of a Kimberly Process plenary session in South Africa won’t surprise many who have seen such people, and their organisations, increase their calls for the demonisation of local diamonds, to serve their selfish agendas, whenever such indabas are on the horizon.

It’s part of a cocktail of bad signals, which are meant to be generated and sent ahead of the Kimberly Process session in South Africa from November 19 to 22, and discrediting this noble investment into sport.

For them it feels very uncomfortable to find diamonds, which they desperately wanted to be outlawed from the world market, being glorified for fuelling the development of a national sporting discipline like football, as is the case in this country right now.

And just to show that there is more than what meets the eye, Maguwu’s protests had to be first channelled through western embassies stationed in Harare.

Other companies should be challenged to emulate the Mbada Diamonds stance and invest in sport because football has become a thriving global business.

In Brazil the top football clubs earned total revenues in excess of US$1bn in the 2011 season, up 29,7 percent from a year earlier, as they gained a greater share of income from television rights for their games.

This sudden increase in wealth is allowing Brazilian clubs to persuade more top talent to stay at home and to draw some players back from overseas. The same can be achieved, in the long run, if more local companies come to play and join force with Mbada Diamonds, BancABC, Delta and NetOne to boost the sponsorship levels of domestic football.

Rather than condemn, it’s time to commend those who have taken the initiative to keep Zimbabwe football alive and Mbada Diamonds are top of that pile.

Robson Sharuko is the Senior Sports Editor of the state controlled The Herald newspaper

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