TOUCHDOWN! . . .Zim NFL star signs with Dallas Cowboys

Robson Sharuko

Harare – Stansly Maponga, the first Zimbabwean to play in the multi-billion dollar American National Football League (NFL) also known as American Football, might not have set the show alight in the five seasons, but has now been lured by one of the league’s most valuable franchise after signing a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.

The 26-year-old outside linebacker, who at 1.88m in height and 116 kgs in weight is a colossus of an athlete, has signed a contract worth $72,000 with the Dallas Cowboys. The contract will bring his professional earnings in the NFL to just over $1,5 million in the five seasons in the league. Maponga, who was born in Harare, earned $405,000 in basic salary in 2013 and a signing bonus of $186,740 when he was signed by the Atlanta Falcons.

This was after being drafted in the fifth round of that year’s NFL Draft. The signing brought him a combined total of $591,740 in earnings in his breakthrough year. His salary rose to $495,000 the following year before he earned $85,000 and another $137,647 in salaries in 2015 and $3,265 in incentives for a combined total of $140,912. Last year, he earned $170,000 in salary and he will earn a further $72,000 for his one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys pushing his salary up to over $1,3 million and his total earnings to over $1,5 million.

“The Cowboys have signed defensive end Stansly Maponga with their open spot on the 10-man practice squad,’’ the franchise said on its Twitter page. His jersey number is 71 and will cost between $75 and $100. The Dallas Cowboys are an iconic sporting franchise, which won five Super Bowl titles and are ranked by Forbes as the most valuable team in the world with a value of $4,2 billion this year, the only sports team worth more than $4 billion.

They became the first sports team to crack the $4 billion mark, in value, in 2015 and – two years down the line – they remain the only franchise to have done so. The Cowboys generated $620 million in revenue in 2014, which represented a record for a United States sporting franchise, and their value has soared by five percent this year alone.

New York Yankees, another iconic National Football League franchise, saw their value rise by nine percent this year to a total of $3,69 billion for second place while Manchester United, the most valuable football club in the world, had an 11 percent jump in revenue and are valued at $3,69 billion and third place in the world.

Spanish football giants Barcelona ($3,64 billion) and Real Madrid (US$3,58 billion) and NFL franchise the New England Patriots, valued at $3,4 billion, occupy the top six places in the world according to Forbes. The New York Knicks, valued at $3,3 billion, are the most valuable franchise in the National Basketball Association but are only seventh in the world while the New York Giants, $3,1 billion and San Francisco 49ers, $3 billion, Los Angeles Lakers, $3 billion, make the rest of the top 10 teams.

The Washington Redskins, $2,95 billion, the Los Angeles Rams, $2,9 billion, the New York Jets, $2,75 billion, the Los Angeles Dodgers, $2,75 billion, Bayern Munich, $2,71 billion, the Chicago Bears, $2,7 billion, the Boston Red Sox, $2,7 billion, the Chicago Cubs, $2,68 billion, the San Francisco Giants, $2,65 billion, and the Houston Texans, $2,6 billion, make up the top 20.

Maponga has also had stints with the New York Giants, who at $3,1 billion, are valued as the eighth most valuable sporting franchise in the world, where he made two appearances two years ago, which means that his recent signing for the Dallas Cowboys has given him the distinction of being snapped by two of the top 10 most valuable sporting franchises in the world.

Four years ago, Calvin Watkins, a pundit for ESPN, predicted in March 2013, that Maponga was set for a dance with the Dallas Cowboys. Maponga, who left Zimbabwe when he was nine, has also courted controversy in the past and received a lot of criticism from his countrymen when he appeared to suggest that life in his homeland was so primitive, when he was growing up.

He was quoted to further add that he had to hunt wild animals as a boy to ensure he survived. He also revealed his biggest culture shock, on his arrival in the United States, was to see that everyone seemed to have shoes. His comments drew sharp criticism, from Zimbabweans, who felt he had not only humiliated their nation.

His comments were considered not to be entirely true given that some of the animals he claimed to have hunted as a child were not found in that country. Maponga was forced to use his Twitter account to apologise for his controversial comments and to thank the Zimbabweans “for all the POSITIVE messages I’m receiving”, reminding those who hadn’t read his apology to visit his Instagram account.

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