IndependentSport View with Darlington Majonga
THE ejection of Caps United this week from the African Champions League for using crookedly registered players is the latest but most serious indictment of the “professionalism” that is Zimbabwean football —
whichever way one looks at it.
We only hope that the Harare giants’ appeal against their expulsion will not leave more egg on Caps owner Twine Phiri’s face, but right now, we are afraid, they have been punished for fraud.
So shocking is the fiasco that even mobocracy disciples are playing a wait-and-see game before they can churn out conspiracy theories over why they think the Francophone-dominated Confederation of African Football (CAF) had to boot out the Zimbabwe champions.
It would be appalling if Caps indeed supplied false information to secure the registration of their Malawian imports, George Martin and Gift Makoloni, for the Champions League competition.
Ironically, Makoloni was Caps’ hero in February when he rose from the bench to score twice in a comeback 3-3 draw away to Burundi’s Inter Stars, who complained to CAF over the suspiciously registered players.
It would also be ridiculous if Caps attempted to field Martin Goremusandu when in reality the former Eiffel Wildcats player’s registration card showed someone else’s photograph!
Anyone would commiserate with Phiri, who has vowed to use all the resources at his disposal to prove his club’s innocence and probably continue in the African safari.
Sadly, Caps have not done anything to prove that they were unfairly treated — even though, admittedly, they should have been given a chance to defend themselves.
We are not talking here about a team that did not realise they needed proof that they were guaranteed visas at the port of entry in Morocco until they spent two days stuck in South Africa before arriving in Casablanca a few hours before kick-off against Raja at the weekend.
Even more revealing, travelling to Burundi with only 13 players — instead of 18 — could be enough to raise suspicions that Caps were so desperate that they could have been tempted to have the players in question registered by any means possible.
On February 24, we quoted Football Association of Malawi secretary-general Yasin Osman as saying Makoloni and Martins had not been issued with international transfer certificates although they had already featured for Caps against Inter Stars the previous weekend.
But a week later Osman “absolved” Caps of any irregular conduct in the transfer of the duo.
Well and fine, but Phiri’s biggest challenge now is to prove that Caps did not submit false information about the Malawian players to get them registered well after the stipulated deadline.
For now it would be unhelpful to argue that CAF had not acted on Method Mwanjali’s case who was registered on the same day with Makoloni and Martins.
The Joseph Kamwendo saga also does not bode well for a side desperate to prove its innocence.
Kamwendo, Zimbabwe’s 2005 Soccer Star of the Year, alleged that Caps had altered his contract with them and were thus blocking his move to Denmark until they got a share of the transfer money. Though the two parties later agreed, the whole development did not leave Caps’ reputation intact.
Even if Caps were to win their appeal against CAF’s decision — which sadly was delivered after the champions had spent a fortune to travel to Morocco — Phiri’s side will have to do more than enough to prove their professionalism.
Instead of shedding what could turn out to be crocodile tears, Phiri ought to crack the whip on his club management for all the embarrassment that has been wrought on Caps, who apparently purported to be the epitome of professionalism.
On a broader picture, the damage caused by Caps’ expulsion from the Champions League might not affect the club alone but Zimbabwe’s football fraternity in its entirety.
We have seen Zifa’s endemic incompetence over the years when it comes to the registration of players on the domestic scene.
Zifa has gaily sanctified the abuse of footballers by clubs who shamelessly alter player contracts without their consent. It’s sad that Zifa has sometimes not done anything to stop the use of zvidhura (fake documents).
A good number of footballers, though, have on many occasions thoughtlessly plonked their signatures on contracts without understanding the binding clauses and obligations in the deals.
It’s no wonder we have seen — because of the dishonesty and daftness by both players and clubs — fierce disputes with clubs fighting over a player or a player claiming to be a free agent.
As we write, former Shabanie Mine captain Albert Mbano claims his contract was altered by the club, making him unable to move to any other team without the Zvishavane side getting some monetary return.
We are bound to hear of many other sad episodes, but we hope Zifa will be able to settle the dispute over “development fees” with regards to former Dynamos players who have moved to premiership debutantes Shooting Stars.
There was the Edmore Mufema case that cost Dynamos the championship in 2003 when they were docked crucial points for using the striker when he was apparently still attached to Motor Action.
Masvingo United could also be in trouble for having used former Darryn T winger Musareka Jenitala without reverse clearance from the Polish side he once turned out for.
In the mid-1990s Caps themselves cried foul and caused a replay twice against Highlanders in a cup fixture after the Bulawayo giants had fielded the late Benjamin Nkonjera, whose status was not clear after his return from Switzerland.
If the dubious registration of players on the domestic scene is not enough to prove Zimbabwe football’s professionalism, then think about the falsification of ages as well as names.
We have seen much older players being fielded in Zimbabwe’s youth teams. We have seen players using their younger brothers’ names so as to make it into teams they are too old for as well as probably to appeal to foreign scouts.
Players such as Edelbert Dinha and Gift Muzadzi have been implicated in age-cheating cases, while there are serious doubts over the official ages of footballers such as Shingi Kawondera, Newton Katanha, David Sengu and many others.
There has been a case involving Tendai Mwarura changing his name, while some serious doubts have been raised over Tapuwa Kapini, Tinashe Nengomasha and Silent Katumba, among many others.
We don’t know whether it’s true or not, but we hear David Sengu’s real name is Elijah Maketo, Tapuwa Kapini is Trust, Tinashe Nengomasha is Kudakwashe and Silent Katumba is Carrington.
The trend is disturbing, and we believe naming and shaming age and name cheats will help Zimbabwe. Please don’t hesitate to write to us.
The most traumatising realisation is that Zifa and clubs have done nothing to arrest this fraudulent behaviour. They should descend heavily on the culprits, be they players or clubs.
Otherwise professionalism, and obviously advancement of football standards, will remain a dream. We hope the Caps fiasco has provided a big lesson.