I’m running football like I’m paid: Nyatanga


THEY have all previously come in bubbly and promising, but something has gone horribly wrong along the way. Can Wellington Nyatanga, the new Zimbabwe Football Association chairman, clean the house and change the image of the association and

Zimbabwean football? He tells
IndependentSport reporter ENOCK MUCHINJO that it can be done.



WHEN Leo Mugabe came onto the scene, he seemed the visionary local football needed at the time. Rafiq Khan was even more appealing with his track record at the Premier Soccer League (PSL) as well as his eloquent articulation of ideas.


Everything went wrong at the end of the separate terms of these two gentlemen that their ouster became manifested in the minds of the local football fraternity.


Enter Wellington Nyatanga in 2006 — with expectations weighing heavily on his shoulders.


With a lot of issues lurking about in the corridors of Number 53 Livingstone Avenue, everything looks to be stacked against Nyatanga. There is a lot more to lose than to gain from his new job.


The big question is: can his administration deliver? If he fails, football in Zimbabwe can only be plunged into further disarray.


Nyatanga, however, is confident enough not to fear the worst.


“I can’t say the odds are stacked against me,” he said. “I take these as challenges that I will be able to tackle.


“We just have to change the way we do things and be professional. We have to get into Zifa people who are passionate about football. There are no fantastic salaries here unless we generate enough funds to sustain football over a long period of time.”


The issue of restructuring at Zifa quickly comes into play.


“We are already restructuring,” said Nyatanga, adding: “But people have to understand that restructuring does not mean firing people. We just need to turn around the fortunes of our football by engaging competent people.


“We must have people who know what they are doing. We have to put people in the right positions. There are individuals with job descriptions that are not clear. That needs to be cleared.”


Nyatanga said a human resources consultant had already been engaged to assist Zifa with the restructuring exercise.


While Nyatanga’s board makes a refreshing change in local football, changing the face of Zimbabwean football is another matter altogether.


Again, while Nyatanga could still deliver, there are far greater signs that his board is on a mission that could go horribly wrong, what with the system of political patronage associated with previous Zifa administrations and the failure to manage national teams, especially the Warriors.


Nyatanga, however, insists the wolf is not at the door. Political involvement starts at government level and ends there, he says.


“We know no politics. National politics has never run football in this country as far as I know. It’s only that in football people come from all walks of life but we have to stick to Fifa rules and regulations governing world football.


“On the other hand, you have to appreciate that football does not exist in a vacuum. There is no way we can run football without the involvement of government. They are a stakeholder just like many others,” he said.


The Zifa boss also declined to admit that the recent controversial decision to exclude Motor Action from this year’s Independence Trophy in favour of Dynamos was an early blip that could reflect badly on his early days in office.


“That is failure to appreciate the constitution,” he defended the decision.


“I do not believe in people’s perception. The Independence Trophy falls under the competition committee and they decide how the tournament must run every year. Rules of the competition are designed annually. Things like that (the criticism against the decision) will always be there in but people must have a clear understanding of football rules.”


While accepting that the transformation of Zifa will rest overwhelmingly on his board’s aptitude, Nyatanga believes the association can only succeed with greater ingenuity from its structures.


“Zifa is everybody,” he said. “People should stop personalising this institution. The councilors of Zifa who formulate our structures come from junior football, women’s football, lower divisions and other entities.


“So in essence we are governing Zifa together because the people who make up the structures come from the stakeholders. If Zifa fails all structures would have failed.”


Midway through the interview, a call comes through on Nyatanga’s office landline.


“I’m now running football like I’m on salary yet this is an honorary position,” he remarks to the person at the other end.


Coincidentally, that was going to be the next question on the list. What are the roles of the Zifa chairman and the chief executive officer? Why does he have to run football full-time when there is a CEO?


“Football administration in Africa generally is headed by an honorary chairman and a secretary-general who is also not a full-time employee of the association. Here in Zimbabwe we are doing it differently. We came up with this idea of CEO to make him the boss of the association and head of the secretariat department.


“The running around that I’m doing is supposed to be done by the CEO. We just come on the board as non-executive directors and custodians of the game. We are there to formulate policy for football.”


So, where does that leave Jonathan Mashingaidze, the incumbent Zifa CEO, brought into office by the Khan board.


“I was not elected to fire people,” Nyatanga said. “I was elected to turn around the fortunes of the association. Of course with the current restructuring exercise there might be need for movements, but it’s not a warrant that he has to be fired.”


The PSL sponsorship falls directly under the league’s management committee, but quite rightly so, it affects Nyatanga and Zifa as the new leadership at the mother body was elected a time the national domestic league was kicking off with no sponsor on board. Nyatanga shares the same concept with his PSL counterpart Tapiwa Matangaidze that the league must not accept a measly deal.


“The league has never been fully sponsored,” he said. “When I was at PSL I did not want to call it sponsorship. It was prize money. Sponsorship means covering kits, travel costs and other incentives. We’ve never had that. What we need now is a full sponsor, a proper sponsor.”


But Nyatanga was not offering that as an excuse for the league’s failure to strike a deal a month into the new season.


“I can’t say because we are looking for that full sponsorship, it’s the reason we don’t have anyone yet,” he said. ” Maybe our brand is just not appealing. We definitely have to improve on that.


“Meanwhile, clubs have to sponsor themselves through revenues. If they play good football they will get good crowds. The clubs must use football as a vehicle to market their brand.”

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