With Itai Dzamara
ZIMBABWE Football Association (Zifa) chairman Rafiq Khan wrote in this column in May that he would resign by the end of this year if he realised he had failed to rescue the country’s
soccer governing body from chaos.
I therefore have the honour to bid farewell to Khan as he prepares to leave the troubled soccer body. For there is no way his self-criticism could show anything but failure in bold letters.
To be or not to be, that is the question. I had written in this column commenting on Khan’s leadership in the face of mounting problems at the association.
Khan was honourable enough to accept my request for a response. He proffered ways through which he hoped to revive the mother association, some of which sounded intelligent but ambitious and others that sounded unrealistic given the situation.
He concluded by stating that he would quit at the end of this year if he failed to achieve his goals. These included turning around the association’s financial situation, instilling professionalism in the soccer fraternity and so forth.
Just recently, Zifa’s property was auctioned over a $290 million debt owed to Led Car Hire and this was a major blow to the cash-strapped association. Recovering from this either requires a miracle or a complete turnaround of the structures and operations of Zifa given the problems bedevilling the soccer body and the general economic situation in this troubled country.
With sponsors still keeping a distance from the troubled house at Zifa, it is unthinkable that Khan could revive the association at this stage.
Squabbling, which is synonymous with the name Zifa, has dominated the year with the latest chapter in that book being the Dynamos saga. DeMbare were suspended by the Premier Soccer League and Zifa intervened to reverse the decision but the hot potato is still with the soccer fathers because the real problems are yet to be dealt with.
The Dynamos issue is one of the reasons for the Zifa chairman to think again before entering the new year still putting on those shoes as head of soccer governance in Zimbabwe.
These two issues are only a part of long-standing problems that have been strangling local soccer for over a decade, which include lack of development and sponsorship.
The national teams have not only seen further defeats, but once again there is controversy regarding winning bonuses and allowances. Lately indiscipline seems to have become a part of the national teams with persistent reports of players misbehaving whilst in camp.
The truth is clearly that the near future not only looks bleak but quite intimidating for the local soccer fraternity.
I am sure Khan should, and will, throw in the towel. Not only must it be incumbent upon him to fulfill his promise but to also admit failure.
Goodbye Rafiq, have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
But obviously the next question needs to be asked and that is on the way forward. After it has been asked, the same question needs to be answered.
Khan came to the Zifa top office amid friction and controversy for power at the mother association. That was not new at all, for that is exactly what anyone wanting to contest for the Zifa leadership posts had to expect and endure during the years.
That contagion of squabbling is partly to blame for yet another year of poor results in both soccer administration and performance on the field.
Secondly, that background inevitably scares sponsors from the beautiful game. That has been, and still is the painful reality — local soccer is lacking sponsors because of the chaos at Zifa. That culture runs down the structures to the pitch and club level.
Lastly, the problems go to the top where a useless Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture under Aeneas Chigwedere failed to help the situation.
On that note, I repeat what I suggested here recently, that there must be a restart of local soccer operations and structures. The current structures and operations are just a hallmark of perennial failure.
They need to be destroyed and people have to restart building structures right from the grassroots levels.
Khan himself recently said the mother body was mooting a re-branding exercise which would seek to find a new face for the game. It could be done by bringing together as many people as possible who have been involved in local soccer leadership, including Khan himself after he has resigned and designate them to areas they could be effective in.
That automatically calls for the same restructuring to happen at the ministry level.
President Robert Mugabe is expected to reshuffle his ineffective cabinet soon. We implore him to spare a thought for our sports and assign a better person to the ministry.
Chigwedere either lacks interest in sports or has no clue how to manage them. Goodbye Cde Chigwedere, have a merry Christmas and better fortunes in your next portfolio.
And there is a man called Peter Chingoka. We sincerely wish him a good and restful festive season. We hope he will be able to come back in the New Year to correct the mess in cricket.
The Zimbabwe Cricket chairman had developed the habit of blaming this paper and others for what he described as our attempt to exaggerate the crisis in local cricket. All was well and there were only a few problems with some white players — the rebels — he always insisted.
This column repeatedly warned that there were many skeletons in many cupboards in local cricket administration.
But no amount of dissent would stop Chingoka in his tracks. Mine and others’ calls for Chingoka to step down were treated with utter contempt by the cricket boss.
However, it was only a matter of time and it happened during the last couple of weeks that fresh controversy rocked Zimbabwe Cricket and it is there for all to see.
This time it’s no longer white players being used by a certain third force to destroy local cricket. It is no longer IndependentSport being used by the third force to peddle destructive and divisive fiction.
It is administrators from Mashonaland Cricket Association calling for Chingoka and his colleagues on the board to go. They allege that Chingoka and company have been violating the constitution and have promised to expose “scandals”.
Another bomb recently exploded following revelations of extortion charges against influential Takashinga Sports Club administrators. The involvement of Stephen Mangongo, who is chairman of the club as well as national team selector, raises questions about the often controversial selection process.
The bulk of national team players come from Takashinga, which is alleged to have been raking in huge amounts of money from taxing them on their earnings during national duty.
If all these issues are a result of people being used by the third force to destroy cricket, then the president must ban Christmas this year!
May I also wish a safe festive season to all the other administrators in other sporting disciplines in this country after a year of hardships, squabbles and failure.
Be it rugby, athletics, basketball, volleyball, squash, tennis and golf, the story is the same — gloom.
It is the same story of lack of development and sponsorship yet again with people fighting for the few breadcrumbs that find their way from the tables.
The break must be used to reflect and ponder on the future. I will honour those who acknowledge the truth, accept their failures and quit. I will also honour those who make resolutions to do better next year.
Many thanks as well to the ardent readers of IndependentSport and this column, whose comments, feedback and tips have been a major source of inspiration.
Merry Christmas and better fortunes in the New Year folks.