WHEN Wellington Nyatanga was ushered in as the new Zimbabwe Football Association chairman, I bet there was an almost audible sigh of relief among soccer fans and clubs that at last there was a new administration that would clear the decks at Zifa House, restra
tegise and breathe into life a new era of professionalism, efficiency and accountability.
After years of lurching from one administrative nightmare to another, Zimbabwean soccer lovers had become so used to the comical stories and foul-ups from Zifa that when Nyatanga was elected to the helm of the country’s supreme soccer governing body, many people rightly expected a lot from him to revive the fortunes of the number-one sport in the land.
After a few hesitant starts to bring some semblance of normality at Zifa, what we have witnessed during the past months has been nothing short of scandalous. One does not need to be the proverbial rocket scientist to see why sponsors are keeping a big wide berth from Zifa, lest their image become embroiled in the current spate of controversies that are making Nyatanga and his team a laughing stock.
To say nothing concrete has improved since the new administration took over would be the understatement of the year, because the team has simply failed to deliver on their promises and we are just back to the starting line.
The recent shocking debacle with the Under-17s whose trip to South Africa and other heart-wrenching stories we have read and heard about makes one wonder why the situation is being allowed to deteriorate to the extent that it has, and, more importantly, what lies ahead for Zimbabwean soccer.
One is forced to ask why Zifa is grabbing the headlines for all the wrong reasons, why we continue to have excuses and limp explanations about why the team at Zifa House seems to be failing to deliver. One is forced to ask what is in store for Zimbabwean soccer come the continental cup games in 2008 and, more importantly, the world soccer showpiece, the World Cup, in South Africa in 2010.
If the soccer authorities cannot plan and manage a simple overnight bus trip to South Africa, then we have a real problem that needs urgent attention to prevent further anarchy in the management of the game.
If the authorities cannot plan ahead of any major local, regional or continental tournament by putting in place structures to deal with team management, selection of players, accommodation, allowances, protocol, transport and players’ welfare, then people should not be blamed when they ask whether there is any real need for the Nyatanga team to stay any day longer in their offices.
As the curtain closes on yet another sad year for soccer, we just hope that there will be an honest and brutal introspection at Zifa so that the team that is supposed to be the professional compass of Zimbabwean soccer can admit mistakes and not engage in name-calling and the blame game, tell the nation what to expect in 2007 and give soccer lovers hope that the game of football will not again be sacrificed on the altar of expediency.
The corporate sector, while willing to partner with organisations such as Zifa, is hesitant to even dabble shareholder funds with an organisation that appears directionless, whose administrators and leaders seem clueless about what to do and whose image is in tatters.
Efforts to lure funding to the game are and continue to be hampered by the horror stories coming out of the Zifa head office and it needs a major dose of confidence-building initiatives by the Nyatanga team if they are to present a slick and well-run organisation that will not embarrass us at the next continental games and, if we are not swept aside by better managed and run teams, at the next World Cup.
There is nothing wrong to ask for assistance from experts in the corporate sector who love the game to assist Zifa. The country is awash with experts in all areas that are lacking at Zifa, be it in marketing, finance, administration and strategic planning. But if the guys think they are the best thing to happen to Zimbabwean soccer, then we are in for a long haul of more horror stories.
The only enduring legacy that Nyatanga and his team can leave is to return the glory to Zifa so that it becomes an example of how soccer administration should be run not only in Zimbabwe but on the continent. — Own Correspondent.