GOOD to see, the crowds are back, and it’s delightful to see stadium seats occupied.
The attendances at Premier Soccer League (PSL) so far, into week four, have kind of surprised even some of us who have remained loyal to this league throughout the tough times over the past few seasons.
You’d think that with Zimbabwe in international wilderness at the moment, suspended by Fifa because of a senseless government intervention that could have been handled better, the 2023 season would hammer the final nail in the coffin in terms of football interest in this country.
Thankfully, Zimbabwean football is alive, but for how can we sustain this if our best players are being denied the opportunity to play at the highest level?
It hurts more that Zimbabwe remains an international pariah, now of all times, when one of our best players Jordan Zemura is becoming the first Warrior in history to play in the Italian Serie A, one of the best leagues in the world.
Now of all times, when another top Warriors star, Marvelous Nakamba, is being compared to none other than NG’olo Kante at Championship side Luton Town.
But for now Zimbabwean fans are hooked onto to the PSL, and it’s a relief.
I agree with ex-Alois Bunjira this week when he reacted to a post he had been tagged this week.
Somebody had suggested that fans had responded well to the reduced entrance fee of $2 per cheapest ticket.
Bunjira opined otherwise. No, it wasn’t because of the money: it’s about the entertainment, the atmosphere, and the vibe of an afternoon out at the football.
Zimbabweans, or Zimbabwean sports fans are starved of good outdoor entertainment and right now the PSL is providing that, near where you live.
But there is something very, very worrying. For how long can we sustain this if the quality of the football isn’t up there?
There has been an outcry over teams using negative tactics in matches, devoid of open play entertainment, something that has infuriated football purists who care for the ethos of the game.
Deliberating delaying, players strolling to the touchline when substituted, goalkeepers feigning injuries: all so as to slow down the opposition’s momentum and milk a point from the match.
Simba Bhora came out for some stern criticism in their nil all draw with Dynamos a fortnight ago.
The Shamva-based PSL newcomers are coached by former Dynamos gaffer Tonderai Ndiraya, who felt hard done by over the way he was released by the Harare giants at the end of last season.
Spare a thought for Ndiraya, having opened the PSL campaign with two losses, a defeat in week three to Dynamos would have sent axes hovering over his head early in the season.
At what risk would have been playing to the gallery, instead of slowing things down and halt the momentum of Dynamos, who showed his the exit only a few months ago?
It would have been great risk indeed for Ndiraya to preside over another loss. Surely hangman would have been testing his noose in Shamva.
Here is a guy who many felt has been unlucky in jobs. Being sacked by trigger-happy Ngezi Platinum was a bit of a surprise move, after doing reasonably well with the miners during his time there.
And now Dynamos last season refused to renew his contract, yet he had proved competitive with an average squad.
It’s not just Ndiraya who is in this undesirable situation of living on borrowed time.
The undue pressure on coaches seems to be across the league, and the longer we live with it, the more we are likely to witness this negativity in teams’ playing approach.
The singing in the stands is nice, the dancing is nice, the vibe too. But without entertainment from the field, it will definitely not be a full package we want and I fear the fans will not stick around for any weekend longer.
For us to get the entertainment we desire and full value for money, everybody involved need to work with freedom, freedom to showcase what they are good at.
Imagine playing without freedom, and coaching without freedom!
The coaches are in a worse predicament because they are forced to suppress the players’ ability in order to achieve a certain outcome.
Clubs must free these guys in the dugout, le them coach the way they want and the way they can. Then if they fail, they fail on their own.
First and foremost, fans come to watch good football, simple as that.