God forbid, this is not football!

With Darlington Majonga

SLY but soft-spoken, the man they call Rafik Khan would leave even the wiliest of politicians blushing and envious if the surreal soap he is directing – Operation Paradzai – is anythi

ng to go by.


But if Khan – and his flock of bootlicking aficionados – cared to make introspection into the way he has in so short a time run down the same football outfit he wants the gullible to believe he stands for, he would be left sulking and lamenting the mess he has made of the beautiful game.


Indeed if Khan had any conscience, probably his only solace would be that he has not been alone over the years in destroying the game that captivates the hearts and souls of millions in Zimbabwe and billions the world over.


The Zimbabwe Football Association’s endemic incompetence and policy failures are well documented that harking back to them would be futile when dealing with people who all the time behave as if football owes them a living.

We have over the years watched football dying a slow death courtesy of so-called administrators whose sole purpose in the sport is to control – if not an opportunity to pilfer – the paltry spin-offs the game makes.


Yes, it’s the politics of power that has sent sponsors bolting from the sport. It’s that insatiable and selfish desire to call the shots that has seen administrators taking acres of editorial space at the expense of the major stakeholders of the sport – the footballers themselves.


We were naïve enough to believe Khan would be the messiah to pluck our football from the muck it is stuck in. We were wrong, and his latest actions are more than enough to prove how lost we were.


Frighteningly, a closer look at the cankerous ills bedevilling our football might reveal that even if we are to shuttle a football leader from the moon, Zifa will always be the same – a blind monster that bites the hand that feeds it.


Over the past decade, the best Zifa has achieved is nothing, and the worst the football association has accomplished is shooing away sponsors.


The untimely withdrawal by mobile phone giant Econet of its massive sponsorship of the PSL is the worst thing to happen to Zimbabwe football, thanks to Khan and his disciples. It’s strange Zifa wanted to have a say in the sponsorship deal it did not help look for.


It’s the battle for control. Period.


We have been watching the trend since the top-flight clubs weaned themselves from the clutches of Zifa in 1993 to form the National Premier Soccer League. Zifa was left with no direct control of the country’s football flagship, and thus the battle for relevance began.


Leo Mugabe has come and gone, and his battle was to call the shots. Khan has been no better, and his politicking has just unwittingly detonated a bomb. For football, it’s back to square one.


Just imagine how difficult it should have been for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to convince Econet to sponsor a discipline that for over the past decade been embroiled in boardroom wrangles and petty personal wars.


It’s strange that Zifa wants to control the PSL when it can’t even run lower divisions that directly fall under its jurisdiction. Division One leagues are not only chaotically run, but they are crying out for sponsorship that their mother body can’t attract.


The football association has failed dismally to attract meaningful sponsorship for the national teams, resorting to last-minute scrounging or government bailouts just before international assignments.


Just across the Limpopo, sponsors literally fall over each other to be associated with the South African national football teams – talk of Castle, Vodafone, Sasol, Adidas and so on.


The Warriors can’t even have a proper kit sponsor. Over the past two years, the Warriors have donned L-Sporto, Jartazi, Legea and other obscure labels that should embarrass our footballers. It’s just crazy.


And this is the same Zifa that expects to convince the whole world that it can host the African Cup of Nations finals in 2010?


Why is it key products are not keen to be associated with the most-supported sport in Zimbabwe?


We all appreciate that with the tough economic situation prevailing in Zimbabwe, many corporates have little to spare for sport.


But the main reason sponsors are shying away from football is simply because we have greedy and selfish people in Zifa just for power, not football.


Two, the football association does not have a plausible policy on sponsorship, while a system to build and manage relations with sponsors is something Khan and his band of administrators have never heard about.

Sponsorship this age is a business whereby both the sponsor and the sponsored have to benefit. In the past sponsorship was lopsided with the sponsor being seen as a donor.


That’s the biggest challenge administrators have – to disabuse themselves of the belief that a sponsor just has to pump in money without getting any mileage. It’s now a win-win scenario, whereby the sponsor can even dictate how the sponsored behaves.


The Econet/PSL deal could be a template for a good deal. While clubs were benefiting financially, Econet should be thankful its association with football has managed to retain and increase its subscribers at a time when its service is terrible.


Simply because sponsors want mileage means there should be no rivalry. The marketing value of sport has increased, and sponsors would give anything to have their brands associated with a certain discipline, league, team, kit or whatever without a rival competing for the same attention.


This is the fact the Rafik Khans of this world failed to comprehend when they attempted to accommodate Net*One where Econet was enjoying the limelight – of course at the instigation of politicians. It’s clear Zifa did not want to merely have a look at the PSL/Econet contract but to question the deal.


It’s not Net*One’s fault, and we appreciate the mobile phone giant’s contribution to football, but it’s sad when the Caps United sponsor is reduced to a pawn in a political game.


God forbid, this is not football!


Does anyone remember the following bit?


“Most of us could have been naïve to pronounce sanity had returned to domestic football after Caps United and the PSL agreed to shelve their row over sponsorship when, in fact, the game has now fallen further into disrepute.” Check your archives!


dmajonga@yahoo.com