Unity Cup exposes Zifa’s shortcomings

Enock Muchinjo

THE belated commencement of this year’s Zifa Unity Cup yesterday sets a bad precedent for sports associations’ over-reliance on government for sponsorship.



“Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>The draw for the Zifa Unity Cup, a resurrected form of the country’s biggest and most-inclusive knockout domestic football competition, was held on Tuesday, after being postponed twice.


Zifa were unable to secure sponsorship on time for the tournament.


The Unity Cup is modelled as the national football association’s own administered domestic competition (FA Cup), which takes in the premier league clubs, lower division clubs, and the area zonal teams.


The old Zifa Cup tournament folded after long-time sponsor, National Breweries, withdrew some eight years ago.


Then known as the Castle Cup, the local FA competition had become an essential part of local football, and winning it ranked closer to winning the premier league championship.


When National Breweries pulled out, the Zifa Cup, as it is officially known, was only brought back at the behest of former Information minister Jonathan Moyo in 2002.


The tournament was one of the former Information supremo’s campaigns to achieve mileage through football, the country’ most popular game.


Now rebranded the “Unity Cup”, in recognition of the Unity Accord agreed between Zanu PF and PF Zapu in 1987, the final of the competition is played on December 22, the date when the Accord was signed.


The Zifa Cup is not the only Moyo football project that ran into trouble after the sacking of the former government minister last year. The Warriors Trust, a handy committee that drummed sponsorship for the senior national team, the Warriors, is now defunct, leaving the Warriors in a terrible financial position ahead of January’s Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.


The Warriors Trust issue aside, that Zifa were not able to run the Zifa Cup until political intervention rescued them should be a cause of great concern for the football body and the world soccer-governing body, Fifa, whose statutory limits clearly discourage football’s reliance on government support or any kind of government intervention in football.


And, as if that failure was not enough to jerk Rafik Khan and his board into better planners, this year they had to wait until year-end to hurriedly look for sponsorship.


As the country’s biggest knockout tournament involving several clubs from the domestic scene in the country, the Zifa Unity Cup was supposed to kick off alongside the premier league at the beginning of the year.


Right now when teams were playing the first rounds of matches yesterday, far-sighted administrators – who sadly are scant in Zimbabwe – should have been already planning for next year’s event.


If running a domestic competition does not show if a national association is competent enough, then Zimbabwe has to rediscover itself.