By Eddie Chikamhi
Football’s all-weather partner NetOne delivered a perfect Valentine’s Day present when they unveiled a $1 million sponsorship package for the country’s Big Three Clubs — Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United — in Harare last night.
The giant mobile telecommunications company made the commitment to serve domestic football when they formally announced their new marriage to Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United.
Under the deal, each of the teams will receive $350 000 for the 2018 season.
Although they have agreed one year with the teams, the company’s acting chief executive Brian Mutandiro said they were committed to a long-term relationship with domestic football if they get satisfaction from their investment this season.
He even said they could spread their sponsorship to other teams depending on the success of their deal with the Big Three Clubs.
Mutandiro revealed they won’t have any issues should other companies in their field come on board and sponsor other teams in the league.
Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe was the guest of honour at the event that was also attended by Information Communication Technology and Cyber Security Minister Supa Mandiwanzira, the ZIFA leadership, Premier Soccer League officials and representatives from the three clubs.
Kazembe urged the clubs to jealously guard this partnership by conducting their affairs in a transparent way that will impress the sponsors to even pour more.
Mutandiro said NetOne, who have been involved in football for the past 15 years, were excited to be back in the game having previously sponsored the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors.
They have also bankrolled CAPS United through their Easycall brand and they made their mark in the league through the NetOne OneWallet Cup.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the story of NetOne and football in Zimbabwe has always been sweet as we have answered various calls at both club and national levels over the years.
“After ensuring that our beloved Warriors participate at the continental showcase, the Africa Cup of Nations in Gabon last year by pouring in $250 000, the people’s favourite network is back again, channelling over $1 million to these three heavyweights of Zimbabwean football.
“Each of them is set to receive $350 000 for their operations and other related expenses in the 2018 season.
“Let me hasten to say, we as NetOne envisage this partnership to be a win-win situation as we anticipate clubs to play their respective parts in promoting our brand and endearing it to their multitude of supporters.
“As a business, our objective is for the clubs to be able to encourage their supporters to use more of the numerous NetOne packages available, to sustain the sponsorship going forward.
“Once this ambitious project succeeds, we see no reason why we should not come back with a much bigger offering next year and if this happens, everyone becomes a winner, especially football, the beautiful game,” said Mutandiro.
Relating to an article carried by The Herald last week, Mandiwanzira challenged the mobile industry to consider investing more in football like what their counterparts are doing to transform the game in Southern Africa.
The mobile phone industry bankrolls the league championships of Zambia (FAZ/MTN Super Division); Malawi (TNM Malawi Premiership), Swaziland (MTN Swazi Premiership), Lesotho (Econet Lesotho Premiership), Mozambique (MCel League Mozambique Football) and they were the last sponsors to fund the Namibian top-flight league (MTC Namibia Premiership) before it went into limbo.
While the industry does not bankroll the South African Premiership, which is sponsored by banking giant ABSA, it has a huge presence in the game in the top-flight league of that country where Vodacom have been pumping R1 billion packages into Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates and MTN sponsor Bloemfontein Celtic and the MTN8 knockout tournament, while Telkom sponsor the Telkom Knockout Cup.
Money from this industry has been helping transform the game in the region and Zambian clubs now plunge into the CAF Champions League driven by grand expectations they can win the tournament after Zesco United reached the semi-finals of the tournament two years ago, only to fall at the hands of eventual champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we read with anguish stories awash in the media last week, lamenting the mobile telephone industry’s lack of interest in promoting football in Zimbabwe,” said Mutandiro.
“However, as journalists were penning their stories, NetOne was busy putting together an exciting package which we believe will take the country’s most popular sport to another level.
“It is our hope as NetOne that the sponsorship we are unveiling here today will help transform the standards of football in the country and ultimately benefit the national team itself.
“With this vision in mind, we call upon other players to come on board and promote football.
“Apart from the 2017 AFCON Sponsorship that I alluded to earlier on, NetOne has in the past sponsored the Women’s National Soccer Team, The Mighty Warriors and ran its own tournament, The NetOne Challenge Cup.
“If we could join hands as a nation and play our part diligently we see no reason why our soccer players cannot earn decent livelihoods and better prepare them for national duties. As NetOne we dream of that day when the Warriors will form part of the cast at the World Cup.”
Mandiwanzira said he could not understand why this industry did not invest in football in this country when it was the norm elsewhere and given that their products were widely used by the game’s fans, players and officials.