Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE richest one-off football match staged on Zimbabwean soil, with US$110 000 in prize money, will be held at the National Sports Stadium on September 6 with the country’s two biggest clubs, Dynamos and Highlanders, battling it out in the inaugural TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup.
The flagship showdown, with rich pickings, marks the first big relationship between domestic football and the retail giant and comes exactly three years after the Glamour Boys featured in the record-breaking US$100 000 Bob ’87 Super Cup tie against CAPS United.
It has triggered speculation that this could be the beginning of a long-term relationship between the Premiership and TM Pick n Pay and is another massive vote of confidence by the corporate sector in the country’s top-flight league.
Onias Makamba, the TM Pick n Pay group finance director and acting chief executive said in a statement released yesterday that they also hope for a long and happy relationship with football.
“We hope this is the start of a long, happy and prosperous association between our organisation TM and Pick n Pay as they join our growing list of corporate partners,” Makamba said in a statement. “The Premier Soccer League, has agreed to assist in any way necessary to ensure that this day and indeed the promotion, is a success.”
The Premiership leadership have since scrapped all matches, which had been scheduled for the weekend of September 6 and 7, which is also a weekend set aside by Fifa for international games.
The 2015 Nations Cup group phase qualifiers will also get underway during that weekend and the Warriors will not be in action after being knocked out, in the first round of the preliminaries, by Tanzania.
The TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup will also mark the first time that match officials in this country will use equipment that will enable the referee and his assistants to communicate, via wireless connection, as is the case in major leagues in Europe.
Winners of the TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup will walk away with US$60 000, for 90 minutes of work, earning a cool US$666 every minute of the action, while the losing team will pocket US$50 000. The two teams will also receive a branded top-of-the-range Adidas kit, imported from Germany, while in return both Dynamos and Highlanders players and officials will be expected to play some promotional roles, in the countdown to the big match, for the retail giant.
Organisers of the TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup said they simply picked the teams that finished first and second in the league championship race last year and their showdown on September 6 will be the climax of a day when the curtain comes down on the Big Brands Bargain Bonanza.
“The inaugural TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup will be held on September 6, 2014 at the National Sports Stadium, as the climax of the Big Brands Bargain Bonanza,” said Makamba.
“The match will be held between the winner and runner-up from the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Season 2013, being Dynamos FC and Highlander FC, respectively.
“The match will take place at the National Sports Stadium on Saturday September 6, 2014, and the teams will compete for the coveted trophy and prize money which will see the winner pocketing US$60 000 and the runner-up walking away with $50 000.
“All Castle Lager PSL fixtures will be suspended for this weekend to ensure full attention on the Cup final.” Makamba said the sponsors, who are expecting to draw a 60 000 capacity crowd at the National Sports Stadium on this grand family day, had agreed with the PSL to keep the gate charges at a minimum while children will be allowed free entrance.
“TM and Pick n Pay is partnering with football in this initiative and to ensure that fans of the beautiful game get the chance to enjoy this event, we have agreed to peg the gate charges at US$1 for entry into the stadium and all children will be free,” said Makamba.
“The match will also act as the Grand Draw event for the TM Pick n Pay Big Brands Bargain Bonanza Promotion, a retail promotion that has been running at all TM and Pick n Pay stores nationwide and started on July 17 and will end on September 4.
“There will be branch draws at all TM and Pick n Pay branches on September 5, while at the National Sports Stadium the next day, a draw will be held for 17 Jeep Compasses and the grand prize of a Jeep Cherokee.
“For the Jeep Cherokee, the winner will have to be at the stadium to win, while the other vehicles will be won by shoppers who participated in the promotion throughout this period.”
PSL chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, gave the TM Pick n Pay Challenge Cup the greenlight on August 15, after consultations with the board of governors who run the top-flight league, who agreed to grant a waiver for the match to go ahead.
The PSL board of governors had resolved, earlier this year, that challenge or friendly matches could not be played during the main calendar of their programme with authority for the holding of such matches only limited to the window, before or after, the official season.
But the PSL board of governors were tempted to bend their rules slightly after it emerged that this one-off match could start a fruitful and longer relationship between the league and the retail giant.
“The PSL would like to confirm that the TM Pick n Pay Challenge has been cleared. The match will be played on Saturday, 6 September, 2014 at the National Sports Stadium,” Ndebele said in a letter to the sponsors.
“Please be advised that the Challenge Match will be organised through the PSL.
“We would like to bring to your attention that, as discussed at the meeting on 4 August 2014, the PSL is an organisation consisting of 16 Football Clubs.
“The said Football Clubs are governed by a Board of Governors wherein each Club is represented by a Chairman/President or Managing Director.
“One of the Board of Governors resolution is that no challenge or friendly matches will be played during the main football season calendar.
“We have consulted the Board of Governors who have waived this rule on the following conditions:
The TM Pick n Pay Challenge Match will be managed by the League.
The Castle Lager Premier Soccer league matches will be suspended on the weekend 6/7 September 2014.
Two Clubs, Dynamos FC and Highlanders FC, are to participate and receive agreed prize money.”