By Mehluli Sibanda
Herentals president as well as player, Innocent Benza has poured out his heart to the local football community, with a plea for his team to be allowed to continue being part of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.
Benza yesterday released a statement in which he shared his pain because of allegations his club has been facing.
“It is with a heavy heart that I write to you and share my thoughts on recent unfortunate and heart-breaking events in the history of my beloved Herentals Football Club, a club established not just as an extension of Herentals Group of Schools but out of a genuine love and passion for the game in my heart,’’ Benza said.
Herentals have from the end of the 2019 season been hauled before the Premier Soccer League disciplinary committee three times, found guilty twice with the other case resulting in an acquittal.
“Since the end of last season, we have been called cheats not once but twice for allegedly fixing our matches against Black Rhinos and Bulawayo Chiefs.
“Subsequent action against us has seen us being charged and found guilty by the Premier Soccer League for attempting and/or fixing the match against Rhinos in our favour, a verdict rightly overturned after we appealed to the Zimbabwe Football Association Appeals Committee against both the charge and the subsequent ‘sentence’.”
“I do not wish to point any fingers or accuse anyone but I do believe that there is a third force, so to speak, behind these allegations. And what hurts me the most is why football has chosen to ignore my obvious love for the game and fixate instead on these false allegations.
“I wonder with impunity why you, my dear football have chosen to disregard 11 years of constant and selfless contribution to the game I so dearly love,’’ Benza said.
He chronicled his involvement in the game, which he said began in 2009 when he started assisting the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).
“My entry into football began in 2009 when I started assisting Zifa in various ways. Being a diehard football fanatic, I saw Zifa struggling and could not bear to see the game regress.
“One early positive consequence of this relationship with Zifa for me personally was meeting the games key stakeholders such as one Moses Chunga whom I credit for giving me the impetus to establish the club.”
Benza, who turns 48 in May still wants to continue playing for his team should they be allowed to remain in the country’s topflight.
“If the powers that be hear my plea, I will be part of the 2020 Premiership season squad. And maybe score a goal or two as I have done since our promotion into the PSL in 2018, a season in which we finished 6th on the log standings.
“I hope and pray that I will not be punished for loving the game and wanting to give my all for the game. I hope and pray that my beloved club will be allowed to continue its genesis in topflight football,’’ he said. The Sunday News