HERENTALS owner Innocent Benza, who also also plays as a striker for the team at 45, has responded to criticism he should hang his boots and limit his roles to financing the team.
How independent is the coach on making selection and substitution?
“Like any other professional team, our coach retains the full liberty to select his first choice players and make his own substitutions. It is wrongly perceived that i (influence) the coach because of my dual role as a player and team owner. A very difficult situation indeed to prove but it should be known that coach (Kumbirai) Mutiwekuziva is a strong-willed coach who is not easily led. He treats me just like any other player in the field. Of course, he does discuss one or two things with me as the most senior guy in the team and it ends there.’’
Isn’t your presence costing the team?
“This is not any new piece of information. Tracing back to Division One games, I was never benched but still the team made it to the Premier League. Now at Premiership level, I get benched almost every game but still we are failing to score. This completely has nothing to do with me as an individual. As a team we will only focus on finishing, that’s where we are lacking only.’’
Aren’t you taking advantage of being the owner?
“I seriously cannot misconstrue passion to be anything close to taking advantage. My responsibilities as the owner of the team and as a field player are clear cut and completely divorced. It is only my unmatched love of the game, my abilities to still play at this age that keeps me in the game now and that will keep me for the seasons to come.’’
Some say you are making a mockery of the PSL
“A number of renowned players have been in the game at my age or even past my age. Buffon of Italy, current national team keeper of Egypt Essam El-Hadary is going to the World Cup. If those references are not good enough to make a wake-up call to individuals that consider my game time a mockery then it defeats rationality.
“Although a different sporting discipline, (Michael) Clarke at the age of 37 offered to save his Australian cricket team, He rightly said, Age is age. Is 17 too young? Brad Hogg played at 45. I don’t think it’s about a number. I think it’s about commitment and devotion.’’
Herentals are considered to be a 10-man team when you’re in the side
“It is easy for people to put blinkers on the whole world of good. There is a proverbial saying that goes like, ‘bad news spread like wildfire’. I have performed hands down in all our games, except against CAPS United. I have the brains to create goals. As a team we have different strengths. We cannot all be speederstars or sure footed. In the art of football my strength is to simply create glory for others by that one metallic touch to strikers. It has made me a piece not to be missed in the puzzle.’’
Herentals are even considered a boozers side by some
“Since soccer is quite an emotional game, the definition to the term boozers might be just an emotional backlash. PSL is a nationally recognised league with proper and stringent screening mechanisms. I doubt if boozers can potentially make it that far. More so, since it is our first time and given that we started off with big teams, our performance is not yet worth of premature judgments.
Anyone who appreciates young talent should be sober enough to notice real talent when they see it. I will not allow myself to be clouded by pressure from people to play a less significant role in the team. I strongly feel that my team still needs me to play and lam not going back’’