HomeSportZim football’s new French connection

Zim football’s new French connection

A French-owned company has made major strides in investing in local football by establishing a well-funded team with the aim of making a mark in the local game.

BY MUKUDZEI CHINGWERE

Zifa Midlands Division Two log leaders, Lesaffre FC, before a recent match
Zifa Midlands Division Two log leaders, Lesaffre FC, before a recent match

Lesaffre, a multinational company, which is a global player in yeast and fermentation was established in northern France in 1853. It has set up business in 45 countries, including Zimbabwe.

In September 2015, the company established Lesaffre Zimbabwe through the acquisition of a majority stake in Anchor Yeast.

With its headquarters in Gweru, the company has three distribution centres in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare.

The yeast manufacturer this year established a football team in Gweru, as a way of giving back to the community. They hope their team will be playing premiership football by 2019.

The formation of the team, which is competing in the Zifa Midlands Division Two league, is likely to open an avenue for local players to be scouted by international scouts, particularly from French leagues.

Lesaffre FC is doing its business quietly, but a visit to their base shows that the team is one of the well-funded teams in local football.

The team is currently topping the third tier league and their elevation to Division One is almost certain.

They have brought in top coach Peter Manoti to guide them to the elite league and the management is rallying behind him.

Lesaffre FC secretary-general Oscar Chinagana, who is also part of the management at the company, was opmistic about the project.

“We have set up a team that is finacially-supported by the company. We decided to venture into football as a way of giving back to the community and we are dedicated to the development of football. This is the only way we can help and the best way to develop the game is to get involved in it,” Chinagana said.

“This country has many talented players who at times are not given the requisite support. So, at Lesaffre, we have decided to bridge the gap by forming the team.

“We have started very well and the coaches have managed to recruit good players who are doing very well in the league they are competing in.”

Chinagana said their target was to play in Division One next season and possibly in the premiership in 2019.

The club’s finance executive Tawanda Gumbo said they had sufficient resources to compete with other top teams in the country. He said they were starting at the rudimentary stage of the game to endear themselves with the community.

“We have the required funds to sponsor a premier league team, but we decided to start from the lower leagues as a way of getting closer to the community and create a strong base,” he said.

“The locals need to identify themselves with the team so we started in Division 2 to groom youngsters and they will gradually develop to compete against the best when we get into the Premier League.”

Manoti has assembled a team which is comprised mainly of youngsters.

In his armoury, Manoti has a French midfielder Oliver Jaubert who is regarded as a top talent by his teammates. However, Jaubert is yet to get a clearance to play locally.

Manoti was optimistic of the project, saying they were building a team that will represent the Gweru community.

“We are building a very exciting project. The biggest problem our football was facing was that we wanted immediate success at the highest level, which is often difficult and sometimes impossible,” he said.

“We have a number of good youngsters who are doing very well and we will continue developing them until they get to the top.

“Next year they will be playing Division One football and the year after, they will be playing in the Premier League. By the time we get into the topflight, they will be ripe to represent the country.”

The experienced coach who has seen it all in Zimbabwean football, both in lower and upper leagues, believes soccer loving people from the City of Progress will have something to cheer in the very near future.

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