Top footballers playing in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League admit they make extra money from betting.
With all the sports betting controversies we’ve seen lately, no one’s surprised anymore when international gambling news reports reveal another scandal. But the story of Zimbabwe’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League players is different.
Dynamos vice-captain Thomas Magorimbo, Harare City skipper David Kutyauripo and suspended Dynamos and Warriors defender Guthrie Zhokinyu are among the ones who confessed to being regulars at a local sports betting shop in Harare.
While some of these professional footballers claim they go to the bookies’ just to hang out with friends, others have admitted to placing the occasional bet, adding that they only do this because they are so underpaid that they can’t afford to support their families, which is why they rely on such extra earnings.
Just visiting friends?
Online betting sites in Zimbabwe:
Sports wagering has been becoming increasingly popular over the past few years. The country has several betting shops, and players with Internet access are also allowed to place wagers on online sportsbooks in Zimbabwe.
While admitting that he spends a lot of time at the betting shop, Kutyauripo emphasized that he doesn’t place wagers on football games. He said he enjoys going to the local bookmakers’ because he gets to hang out with his friends Zhokinyu, who is a regular there. Most of the employees there are also old buddies of his, he said, adding that they all grew up together in Bulawayo.
“Guthrie is my friend and he is always in the betting shop as he is unemployed. So, I go there to spend time with him. The shop attendants are also my friends, I grew up with them in Bulawayo. I don’t bet and will never bet,” said Kutyauripo.
His friend Zhokinyu was banned from football after it was discovered that he had been involved in the Asiagate scandal. Local newspapers revealed that Magorimbo was also among those who visit the betting shop regularly, but reporters could not reach him to find out what he’s been doing there.
Betting, more profitable than football
Betting on sports is not against Zimbabwean gambling laws, but League regulations forbid footballers from wagering on matches they play in. However, local gambling news say that several league players bet regularly, as being a professional player in Zimbabwe has become less rewarding.
According the local media, most Premiership clubs pay around $ 400, and bonuses go up to $ 100 for every win. Some of these bonuses are limited at $ 50, but it often happens that football clubs don’t pay them for months. Players complain that sometimes they go on for months without receiving their salaries.
With the way things are going, more and more footballers are turning to betting to make some extra cash. One player, who asked to remain anonymous, has even said he’s thinking of quitting the sport altogether, and focusing all his energy on betting instead. After all, he added, it looks like it’s more profitable and this makes it far more enjoyable.
Most football officials and supporters said there was nothing wrong with players placing wagers on matches they’re not involved in, but manager Nobert Chawira believes it is more important that they focus on football and achieving more in their profession, rather than betting odds.
“If they want football then they should concentrate on football. But if they want betting then they should quit football altogether,” Chawira told reporters.
Betting could lead to match-fixing
According to Jonathan Mashingaidze, chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Football Association and Kennedy Ndebele, president of the Premier Soccer League, there are no laws that forbid local players from engaging in football betting. However, this doesn’t mean professional players should get involved in such activities.
While football matches played in the country are not on bet locally, Ndebele believes even being able to wager on foreign clubs represents a potential danger to local football.
“As the Premier Soccer League, we do not encourage players to bet on football as this brings an appetite for greediness. Clubs should ensure that their players do not get involved in these practices,” he said.
Mashingaidze added that allowing players to bet can often lead to match-fixing and football corruption.
“The more money they get from this practice, the more they would need. This could send them into fixing matches,” he argued.
In other countries, professional footballers and league staff have been fined after being caught placing bets on sports. Furthermore, English players have been banned from placing wagers on any football competition worldwide.
It remains to be seen if Zimbabwean officials take any measures against their players’ new hobby, but all international policies seem to point to the same fact: professionals sportsmen should not be engaging in betting.