Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
KABWE Youth Soccer Academy’s ascendancy into the Super Division has added a new dimension to our top flight.
It is the increasing number of clubs sponsored by individuals claiming their share of influence in running football clubs in Zambia.
Since inception of the Zambian football league in 1962 through to the late 1980s, save for one or two teams, the tradition has been that topflight clubs or those of the lower tiers have mostly been sponsored by mining companies, Government or municipalities and parastatal companies through their various wings while a few such as Nakambala Leopards would be under the sponsorship of private companies, but rarely by individuals.
Of late, however, there has been a development where topflight clubs are having individuals as sole owners or sponsors, something that was alien in the last three decades or so.
In sharp contrast though, in most major leagues in Europe, famous clubs are mostly owned by individuals.
And these clubs are not only famous, but successful, too.
The most successful Zambian teams have, from time immemorial, been sponsored by various divisions of the then Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM).
These are Mufulira Wanderers, Konkola Blades, Nkana, Nchanga Rangers, Roan United, Kalulushi Modern Stars and Chambishi Blackburns, Power Dynamos, Zamcoal Diggers and defunct Kabwe United.
Ndola United, Mufulira Blackpool, Kitwe United, Lusaka City Council and Livingstone Pirates are among the clubs that were sponsored by local authorities and left footprints in our league.
Zambia Railways, Zambia State Insurance Corporation and Zesco Limited are among parastatals that have sponsored football clubs, including Zambia National Commercial Bank, a former parastatal.
Elsewhere, the defence and security wings have had a share of sponsorship being given to Green Buffaloes, Red Arrows , Green Eagles under their respective wings – Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force (ZAF) and Zambia National Service (ZNS) while the Zambia Police Service back Nkhwazi and the Zambia Correctional Services taking care of Prison Leopards.
The only outstanding exceptions to have been sponsored by individual persons are Lusaka Dynamos by Hanif Adams, the defunct Vitafoam United, which was bankrolled by Abram Mokola, and Rumlex, which has equally gone under, was solely sponsored by Kingsley Rumsey.
Former FAZ general secretary James Mazumba briefly sponsored City Snipers (after National Milling Corporation stopped sponsoring it), so did Faran Quadri test the waters when he owned Lusaka Celtic, which he later sold to Lee Kawanu, just like Nelly Nkhuwa has given up Nkhwiza, now playing as Mufulira United.
But of late, there has been a steady rise in teams being sponsored by individual businessmen.
The most recent cases in point are Real Nakonde, owned by Simon Mwanza, and Buildcon’s Moses Mubanga (a contractor who bought off AM Welding), which teams entered the Zambian Super Division for the first time in the current 2017 season.
With Nakonde and Buildon trending, Evans Mutangama has joined the bandwagon with his Kabwe Youth Academy already confirmed as 2018 Super Division.
Mutangama, the chief financial officer at Lunsemfwa Hydro power Company, now has the homework of finding a corporate sponsor to help him pick the bills of the team he has been sponsoring since 2013.
Mutangama’s helper in Division One was a company called CPAESS, which paid Nowell Phiri’s salary but the responsibility has grown.
“For a newly-promoted club, I am looking at K250,000 per month excluding kit,” Mutangama said, acknowledging the financial pressure that goes with the sponsorship of a Super Division side.
For transport, Kabwe may look to President Lungu’s intervention.
President Lungu helped Nakonde with a 30-passenger bus.
Mutangama is not alone.
In Mongu, David Simwinga and Gershom Mwagomba have since 2003 been running with Mongu Youth Academy, who are campaigning in Division Two West.
Mongu, who were in Division One in 2015, are on course to winning promotion back to the first division.
Shalom Buses south-west regional manager Bimaele Phiri, fed up with politics at under-performing Livingstone Pirates, has also decided to demonstrate his administrative acumen by taking over Division Two Maramba Stars.
Maramba, the only Division Two club which camps and travels for out of town fixture a day before, are now enjoying massive support in Livingstone.
From relegation strugglers, Maramba are serious contenders for promotion to Division One.
Phiri’s smartly dressed club is eager to bring top flight soccer to the tourist capital.
Gabriel Kaunda has demonstrated resilience in keeping Afrisport, in good and bad times, so has Elijah Mwila stuck with Zacks United.
Almost all academies are individually-owned, filling a void left by Premier Division clubs which are no longer running reserve and youth teams.
In Europe, big teams, despite being sponsored by individuals, enjoy big success stories for two good reasons: the sponsors are billionaires and, secondly, their TV rights are massively huge to keep their respective teams competitively going further aided by advance season ticket buying, sale of countless replica club jerseys and memorabilia spread across all the five continents.
Cases in point here are Manchester United of the Glazier family fame, Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan, Amancio Ortega’s Deportivo La Coruna, Joseph Lewis’ Tottenham Hotspurs (who started off as a waiter in the catering business of his father), Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, Stanley Kroenke’s Arsenal and Sheik Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s Manchester City. These individuals have a collective net value of US$90billion personal fortune.
In Zambia, the individual owners may not be billionaires but they have great passion for the country’s number one sport.
The energy and passion individuals have invested in sponsoring clubs is their desire to contribute to the country’s soccer development.
With multiple owners of clubs in top flight, lucrative sponsorship of the league is the equaliser.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.