It’s dark and I’m sitting in the stands with a friend revelling in the cool evening air. I’m eating excellent pizza and bizarrely, I’m absorbed in watching a fast moving game of five-a-side football, which is very odd, because generally speaking I really dislike watching football. But the atmosphere is great and the enthusiasm of both the players and spectators is infectious. I’m at the Italian Club near Mabelreign in western Harare, which hosts Forza Bhora. The name means ‘come on football’ in Italian and Shona.
Forza Bhora started in 2011 with just eight teams and 60 registered players, they now have 40 teams and over 500 registered players.
According to a 2012 FIFA survey football is still the worlds number one sport. They estimate that worldwide 265 million men and women are participating in it in one form or another. If you add to this the five million referees then football is played by 4% of the worlds population. The Zimbabwe Football Association turned 50 in May 2013.
As we all know the game of football generally involves teams of people kicking a ball around in order to score a goal. But different countries have various interpretations of the sport, which was supposedly first played by peasants in England. Arguably the original club was the ‘Foot-Ball Club’ of Edinburgh, Scotland, which played the game from 1824 to 1841.
Here in Zimbabwe we play soccer or Association football but if you live elsewhere in the world you’d quite likely end up playing Gaelic, Canadian, American or Australian football. Throughout Africa football pitches of all shapes and sizes can be found wherever there is a flat piece of earth. If there isn’t enough spare cash around to purchase a modern ball then plastic bags are often wrapped around each other and tied up with whatever is at hand to form a solid and indestructible football. This is a definite improvement on the original English eighteenth century version, which were made out of inflated pigs bladders, later to be covered in leather in order to keep their shape.
The Forza Bhora league at the Italian Club is the only five-a-side league in the country. In January 2014 the club’s two bowling greens were converted into pitches with state of the art FT40 SLIDE artificial turf. The quick draining fields mean that fixtures no longer have to be cancelled due to flooded pitches. Matches are paid under floodlights from 6pm to 9pm currently on a Tuesday and Thursday evening and include teams with names like Dindingwe, the Bengaz Stars, and Circolo Italiano The leagues are professionally managed with trained referees and on-field first-aid facilities.
Currently the 16 best teams are playing in the ‘The Champions League’ on a Tuesday and the next 16 best teams are playing on Thursdays in the ‘Zambezi Cup league’. The leagues started on Tuesday the 11th and Thursday the 13th respectively. The semi-finals and finals of these leagues will be played on Saturday the 31st of January from midday onwards following on from a five week break. The ‘Adidas Concept Store’ in Sam Levy’s village are currently sponsoring both leagues.
You don’t have to be an expert football player to join Forza Bhora though. The club welcomes men and women of all ages from juniors to veterans and from all walks of life to come to the club to join in the fun and camaraderie. If you have a team then that’s great. If you turn up as an individual you will find other individuals more than keen for you to join them. As numbers rise the club plans to hold games on other nights of the week.
At the end of the season Forza Bhora distribute second hand footballs to orphanages and more underprivileged football leagues in order to promote the game and encourage people to stay fit and healthy.
If you fancy getting a team together to join future leagues, or just want to find out a bit more about five-a-side football please have a look at the Forza Bhora website www.forzabhora.co.zw or contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or mobile number 0782 527 433. You can also join their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/forzabhora
In the meantime I’ll be watching this fun and fast sport from the stands with a pizza and beverage. Hopefully I’ll see you there.