GAME ON! with BENEDICT TEMBO
ELITEâ€™ Lusaka Dynamos Football Club have done what most of their competitors have failed – recognising former footballers, the disabled and children.
The gesture of granting free entrance to former footballers by giving them gratis seasonal cards, and allowing the disabled and children under-13 to watch their home games without paying is commendable.
It is also not surprising that this offer of a millennium by Dynamos has come when seasoned soccer administrator Simataa Simataa is the chief executive officer of the club.
Granted that Dynamos are naturally not crowd-pullers, this gesture should help rebrand the club and make it acceptable to the public.
One of the biggest decisions the club which survived relegation through the increasing of the teams from 18 to 20 is not just the goodwill it has extended to former footballers, the disabled and children but to start using the 50,000 seater National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
Following the success of the Total Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations where Zambian fans exhibited patriotism by filling the National Heroes Stadium during the junior Chipolopolo games, I expected some of the established teams to tap into the frenzy by taking their games there.
And Dynamos were the least I expected to jump for this.
Honestly, I expected big clubs like Napsa Stars and Red Arrows to pilot the use of National Heroes Stadium but instead it is little Dynamos who have seized the moment.
Zanaco used the stadium for their CAF Champions League first round, second leg tie against Young Africans of Tanzania.
It is public knowledge that Yanga had more supporters than Zanaco, however, the bankers have not been discouraged from continuing to use stadium.
Zanaco will continue using the facility, which saw them qualify for the group stage of the Champions League.
A team like Zanaco will be able to draw the kind of spectatorship that filled the stadium during the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations and that is something their marketing has done well to recommend the use of National Heroes Stadium.
For Arrows, being a team owned by a Government wing, I thought they were going to abandon Nkoloma Stadium in Chelstone and try out their fortunes at a gigantic facility.
The same applies to Napsa, who have been nomads since they stopped playing from Matero Stadium in the early 1990s.
It is embarrassing for a club run by a major social security scheme not to have its own home ground.
Off course, it is not unusual for wealthy clubs like Napsa not to have their own base but what is embarrassing is for them to spend the entire pre-season pleading with Zanaco for the use of Sunset Stadium.
Maybe Napsa officials have a short memory: Honestly, how did they expect Zanaco to allow them to use Sunset Stadium after refusing them to sign striker Chitiya Mususu, son of Bishop Paul Mususu.
Now, they have turned to Edwin Imboela Stadium and should Nkwazi need a player from Napsa and their wish not granted, the social security outfit will be looking for another home ground.
Focus in the Chaisa, Mandevu and Matero areas will be on Dynamos – thanks to their wise decision to start using National Heroes Stadium as their home venue for this season.
Although the move has drawn some negative vibes, it goes without saying that their step is a challenge to the bigger clubs that have larger following.
Dynamos have applied some marketing principles to attract more followership.
Historically, Dynamos have been based at Queensmead Stadium, and moving to National Heroes Stadium is a change for their fan base, especially by scrapping off entry charges for all children below 13 years and also for all physically challenged people who cannot access the terraces.
It only takes a true sports administrator like Simataa to think in those lines. I hope other teams can take a leaf from him.
Dynamos will fill the void left by Lusaka Tigers, who got demoted at the end of last season after not tasting top flight football in ages.
Green Buffaloes, who use Independence Stadium, have been beaten to the count by a side that has survived several storms in terms of sponsorship challenges.
Dynamos are also on a drive to register former players, coaches and officials so that they could watch all the home games for free in honour of their service to the club since its establishment in 1979.
The big teams should emulate Dynamos by tracking their former players and offering them free entry to all their football matches.
The former players will serve as a channel of attracting a following too as they will in most cases seek to watch their former teams in the company of friends.
Dynamos and Zanaco should conduct road shows in the National Heroes Stadium neighbouring townships to sensitise residents there about their arrival.
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GAME ON! with BENEDICT TEMBO