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Harare’s Footballers Resort to Illegal Matches for Survival

With organised football suspended in Zimbabwe due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s long-suffering footballers have once again turned to “money games” to make ends meet. On average, a club player earns $50 per month officially but $16 on the black market. The salary is less in the lower divisions. With no international matches, these footballers have thus resorted to unsanctioned matches – deemed illegal by their own clubs – which are also prohibited under the government’s lockdown rules. Normally, crowds would play a huge role in these cross-township football rivalries in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Up to 5,000 spectators jostling for a glimpse of the end-to-end action from the pitchside could be seen at a high-profile game. However, since the coronavirus outbreak, big crowds would attract unwanted attention from the army and police officers. As a result, these matches now start as early as 8am local time (06:00 GMT) to avoid high spectator numbers. “Money games” have been played in Zimbabwe for years where, during the off-season, some of the country’s best top-flight league players appear in a desperate attempt to supplement their meagre income. The prize-money, in most cases, comes from local football enthusiasts who have the cash to spare.