ROMAN Abramovich is very passionate about his football club, Chelsea, he hardly misses a game that the English Premiership giants play — either at home or away. And Prophet Walter Magaya has so much passion, for his Division One football club, Gunners, he even regularly joins his players in their training sessions at Alexandra Sports Club in the capital.
That was the case on Wednesday when Magaya changed into his training kit and plunged into action with his players during their training session at the sports club, in the capital, which is also the home of the country’s bowling champions.
A keen footballer during his youth, Magaya didn’t look out of place in that practice match which featured the likes of Ramson Zhuwawo, a former Zimbabwe international, who was good enough to be named Soccer Star of the Year six years ago, when he was the outstanding player as Gunners were crowned domestic Premiership champions.
For the members of Alex, watching the popular prophet playing football with his players, has been quite a spectacle in the past few weeks.
“What really clearly comes out is that the prophet is very passionate about not only his team but the game in general,” Spencer Manguwa, an Alex member, who plays for the sports club’s social side, Mafero Mafero, told The Herald.
“He loves his football club, there is no doubt about that, and he is someone who appears to have very, very big plans for the team and I think it must have hurt him very badly when they were just beaten, at the very end, for a place in the Premier League.
“Given the heartbreak that might have come with how they lost the title race last year, if he was someone who didn’t really love his club, chances are that he would have walked away from it all but the fact that he didn’t only stick around, but has made himself part of the team he even trains with his boys, just shows how serious he is about his project.
“You can see that his presence at their training sessions brings a lot of energy to his players, and it’s even worse when he gets in to play with them, the morale just gets a notch higher and that’s something great because you want the players to feel that the owner of the club is walking with them all the way.
“I think every football club will love to have such a passionate owner and I won’t be surprised if Gunners really go places and are back in the Premier League sooner rather than later.”
Magaya is the majority shareholder at Gunners, after acquiring the controlling stake from club founder Cuthbert Chitima, who is also an Elder in his church, Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries.
Chitima, working in tandem with his former partner, Sweeney Mushonga, turned Gunners into the champions of Zimbabwe football in 2009 and the Harare club played in the CAF Champions League the following year.
Now Magaya wants to do even more by turning Gunners into the biggest football club in this country, based on religious values and supported by religious men and women, and despite the setback of the team’s failure to win a ticket into the Premiership last season, he continues to pursue his dream.
And, interestingly, he doesn’t only run the club from his office, but he even plunges into the blast furnace of their training sessions, turning himself into one of the players, as he tries to drive his men to take their game a notch higher. Abramovich’s funds and passion helped Chelsea end 50 years of waiting for the English Premiership title when they were crowned champions in 2005 and, since then, they have turned themselves into one of the heavyweights of English and European football, winning the Champions League and Europa League.
Whether Magaya’s passion can help Gunners into writing a similar success story remains to be seen but, even if they don’t, those who have been seeing the prophet showing off his skills with his players at Alex Sports Club in recent weeks, won’t fault him for trying.