CITY’S GRAVY TRAIN BLOWS AWAY $6M
Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
MAYOR Bernard Manyenyeni has lifted the lid off the spending spree at Harare City Football Club, saying the team’s officials blew a staggering $6 million in ratepayers’ money this year to finance their doomed campaign in the domestic Premiership, which ended in the humiliation of relegation.
With the league championship winners getting $100 000 in prize money, it means the Harare City FC officials splashed 60 times more financial resources, in terms of the actual money used to run the football club this year, to try and win the biggest cheque in domestic football.
However, it appears, most of the money did not directly benefit the club as it was blown away by the officials with the Mayor saying a number of voices, who were critical of the way the football club has become a vehicle to abuse public funds at Town House, having been silenced by being lured onto the gravy train.
In a new political dispensation where abuse of public funds has been thrust into the spotlight, the news coming out of Town House makes disturbing reading, especially in a year in which Harare City punched far below their weight in the PSL championship race and were relegated.
In contrast, a club like Shabanie Mine, which barely has any financial resources to an extent where some of its operating costs were met by the mother of their captain Farai Mupasiri, found a way to survive relegation. Of course, Harare City won the Chibuku Super Cup but that won’t count for anything in a season in which they lost their top-flight league status.
Such has been the spending frency at the club that some local football writers and now its regular guests on its trips to away matches, on fully-sponsored adventures, with critics suggesting the exercise is meant to stop these journalists from writing anything critical about events at the club. The football club has an annual budget of around $2 million while the sports budget for all council sporting teams is believed to be around $5,5 million per year.
Harare City have a football team for both men and women, a netball team as well as a basketball team. But while there is nothing wrong with having such sporting teams under its stable, the Harare Mayor believes these teams are being used as vehicles to fleece the council. Manyenyeni has always criticised the huge budgets set aside for these teams which are sponsored by public money at the expense of council’s core business of service delivery.
Apart from enjoying all those luxuries, including the hiring of a British coach Mark Harrison as their technical director, the Sunshine Boys were relegated from the Premiership last week. It is believed Harrison is the highest paid coach in the country while officials pocket as much as $400 in allowances for just an away match where there usually a scramble for them to travel to such games.
Yesterday, Manyenyeni, who was once the patron of the club before he quit after clashing with his colleagues over the huge budgets, criticised the way the team was being run and the huge amounts that were being pumped into the project. Sarcastically, he wrote that the club has more coaches ‘’than underwear’’ but were still relegated at a time clubs with meagre budgets such as Shabanie Mine and How Mine managed to stay afloat.
“When do you residents ever get to praise us? After blowing $6 million chasing a ball all over the country surely Hararians should congratulate us for being demoted from the Premier Soccer League this last Saturday,’’ Manyenyeni wrote on his Facebook page.
“We could/would buy any player any day and easily sit them on the bench. We had more coaches than underwear. We have pumped into the Sunshine City FC about six times the average team budget in the same league.
“We even rejected an all-in team management contract at 25 percent of our cost. Aren’t we lucky that it’s only ratepayers’ money!” Harare City have an enlarged technical squad which cascades to their developmental side. A few months ago, they hired British coach Harrison to be the club’s technical director while Philani “Beefy” Ncube is the head coach for the Premiership side.
Former Warriors assistant coach Mkuphali “Mr Cooper” Masuku is the coach of City Cubs while Elvis “Chuchu” Chiweshe is the technical director of the junior teams. Manyenyeni’s bone of contention with the executive has always been the astronomical figures splashed on the project and not necessarily the need to have a football club. Last year, he clashed with the team when it sent a bloated squad of 43 members to Madagscar for their CAF Confederation Cup qualifier.
The figure had to be whittled down from a delegation of 56 people after Manyenyeni expressed reservations as the airfares chewed $54 000 before accommodation, allowances and bonuses were factored in. Yesterday, Manyenyeni argued that at a time the City was struggling to fund refuse delivery, part of the money poured into football team could have easily addressed those woes.
“The money could have bought 60 garbage compactors which could have served the entire city for 10 years,’’ he argued.
“For nearly two years we have struggled with a running fleet of only about 20. We have run out of diesel even for the depleted fleet. We have battled with debt and water treatment chemicals.’’
The Mayor says the situation at the football club has become a gravy train involving some of the top council top officials.
“We’ve never run out of football funds, the City Treasurer (Tendai Kwenda) is also team treasurer, nice and easy. Top council managers are the team officials. The most vocal councillors are in the mix big time . . . they have since gone into hiding. I quit as patron but I still gave them my support as they plied on. Ndicharamba ndichingovukura, ndichingovukura, ndichingovukura. “KUTONGWA KWARO GUTA!” said Manyenyeni.
Manyenyeni added there are plans for the team to bounce back into the top-flight league through the buying of a franchise from one of the teams which were promoted this year.
“I hear the plan now is to buy a franchise and resurrect back in the league. With your own money comrades!” he wrote. Harare City will tomorrow play their last match in the top-flight league this year when they clash with league champions FC Platinum at Mandava in the Castle Challenge Cup. The Chibuku Super Cup holders are expected to play in the CAF Confederation Cup next year following their victory in the prestigious Cup. And the Sunshine Boys will have to fulfil the African Safari duties coming from Division One.