Ray Bande Senior Reporter
THE unveiling of the 19 players that will don Manica Diamonds jersey in the 2019 Castle Lager Premiership season has sparked intense and emotional debate with the exclusion of midfielder Clemence ‘Skude’ Mukudu dominating the discussion. While football followers across the nation and most media houses that covered Monday’s Manica Diamonds unveiling ceremony spoke glowingly of the club’s efforts to lure quality and youthful players, some dissenting voices from the city’s oldest suburb of Sakubva felt the team should have done more to incorporate players born and bred in Mutare and Manicaland at large.
Veteran midfielder Clemence ‘Skude’ Mukudu, a vital cog in the middle of the park during Manica Diamonds’ promotion campaign season, earned the sympathy of many neutrals following his omission from the list of 19 players unveiled on last Monday.
That Mukudu ended the season the fourth top goal scorer in the Eastern Region Division One league coupled with a good number of assists, albeit limited game time left many questioning the criteria used to sideline him. Some felt that Manica Diamonds had done so well in rehabilitating Malvin Zhuwawo, a player fondly known as ‘Master Hare’, who had turned destitute before joining the club last season and turned him into a responsible figure.
Somehow, he was omitted from the list of 19, a development that might see him reverting to his old way of drug abuse and street life. Mutare photo journalist Artwell Gumiso said: “To Manica Diamonds, we say thank you for your initiative. In soccer, having new signings is a move that every team wants and can help greatly in building up a strong team. However, there is need to for the team brand to be identified with community.
“When the community cries about inclusion of local based players they are not disrespecting club officials neither are they forcing the club to take old and incapable players. They need to identify with the team. We urge the club to take the public plea serious and not take it personal. Why did Tanganda succeeded? It was not all about sponsorship, but the main contributing factor was that it had a strong support base which was undivided and undiluted because the team had many local players”.
Benjamin Chindima, a sober voice in the analysis of football issues who was one of the very few respectable administrators at relegated Mutare City Rovers, said: “Manica Diamonds should continue with their own way of doing things. Yes, positive criticism is allowed but it is difficult to differentiate from jealousy as well so they should be very careful.
“Good players must be signed whether they come from Mutare or not. Zimbabwe is one and if the once selected suit in Manica Diamonds’ philosophy, so be it. One way or the other true supporters will always support the team”.
Donald Manhende, a Sakubva born player manager whose passionate support of the game of football is beyond reproach, said: “Some of the players that were unveiled on Monday were active for a quiet a long time for example Patson Jaure, Ashley Reyners and Marshal Mudehwe. I also feel they should have conducted medicals first because the club might end up buying injured players. “The selection of returning players is not justified at all. Which criteria did they use? There are more questions than answers. I feel players like Clemence Mukudu deserved a place in that team.”
Blessing ‘Jah B’ Mutsaka, the brains behind the most organised junior football tournament in Mutare currently, said: “I think they could have done more to identify good and upcoming local talent like Nyasha Chintul. Such players would be hungry for success and they will impress
“They failed to negotiate with current Manicaland born players already in the Premiership that could have been a plus but I guess it was always going to be difficult to lure someone from Ngezi Platinum because those are well organised teams.
“I think they signed mostly average players and it remains to be seen if those players can up their game. We had higher expectations of the calibre if players they would buy than what eventually transpired. I am happy they retained players likes Rodrick ‘Jecha’ Mufudza and Steven Sibanda who were pivotal to their promotion. I am disappointed they dropped Hibron ‘Adala’ Makukutu and Clemence ‘Skude’ Mukudu who were also key and are local favourites.
“From my side, the players to watch at Diamond this year are Mufudza and Steven Sibanda simply because they have a lot to prove. We will also see if Wisdom Mutasa can come out of his shell. A lot has been said about him but we have not seen that sparkle as yet. We will have to see whether Partson Jaure still has it, otherwise that experience will work. The first three or so games will be telling in terms of the strength of their squad.”
Trust Dube, a known football personality in football circles in Chipinge district who is based at Tongogara Refugee Camp, said: “I think Manica Diamonds did a very good job. They have invested in football entertainment in Manicaland. We are proud of them. However, they should have an ear for what the fans are talking about especially when it comes to inclusion of crowd favourites and locals such as Clemence ‘Skude’ Mukudu and Master Hare.”