UNDER-FIRE Zifa president Wellington Nyatanga says his board cannot be blamed alone for Zimbabweâ€™s failure to qualify for both the World Cup and African Nations Cup in 2010.
Nyatanga, under whose leadership Zimbabwean football standards have continued to plunge, this week faced immense pressure to resign after the Warriorsâ€™ 4-2 loss to Namibia in Windhoek last Saturday.
After Guinea beat Kenya in Conakry in the other Group Two match, the result in Windhoek would not have mattered in any case. Even if they had won Zimbabwe would not have progressed. But it was the nature of the defeat in Namibia and the way it highlighted the plummeting standards of Zimbabwean football that raised alarm.
â€œIâ€™m the leader of soccer in this country so I should take the flak,â€ Nyatanga said in an interview with IndependentSport this week. â€œBut let it be fair and objective. Iâ€™m equally disappointed. Iâ€™m also a Zimbabwean and as a Zimbabwean I would have loved to see the flag being raised high. But as fate would have it, we didnâ€™t qualify. Maybe it was not going to be our destiny.â€
Nyatanga said most of the criticism against his board was misdirected.
â€œThe board is there to make policy,â€ he said. â€œThe administration headed by the CEO does the day-to-day running of the association. Thatâ€™s in the constitution. Qualification is a product of Zimbabwe not the board alone. Everyone has a role to play. Did they play that role?â€
He refuted claims that Warriors coach Valinhos had not been paid, saying the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), had infact paid the Brazilian.
â€œWe went into an agreement with ZTA. It was a tourism campaign. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with them to pay his salary for six months. He was paid. We were then supposed to take over after six months.â€
Nyatanga however did not reveal if Zifa have been paying Valinhos since June.
The Zifa board also came under attack for not holding a meeting in 10 months.
â€œI donâ€™t know what they are talking about,â€ Nyatanga responded. â€œThe next AGM will be held after December. Board meetings are held as and when business requires. There is a secretariat that deals with issues. If there are no issues why should the board meet? Just to sit and look at each otherâ€™s faces?â€
He said pressing issues were handled by an emergency committee on the board comprising the president, his vice, the CEO and the board members responsible for finance and development.
â€œThese are the people who deal with core issues and they meet periodically. The other board members are always holding meetings in their constitution. They donâ€™t have direct influence on how the association is run. â€
The Zifa council â€“â€“ an all-inclusive organ of the association â€“â€“ has powers to fire the board. One of the influencial councillors, Godfrey Japajapa, publicly criticised the Nyatangaâ€™s board this week. Will the council proceed to dissolve the board?
â€œIts entirely up to them (Zifa council),â€ said Nyatanga. â€œBut whatever must be done must be constitutional. I have a term to conclude. If people want us to cut the term because we did not qualify then thatâ€™s something else.â€
He however said he was surprised by Japajapaâ€™s comments.
â€œWe never got any complaints from the council. Itâ€™s only now that we have failed to qualify that we are hearing this. I donâ€™t understand this.â€
Meanwhile, defender David Kutyauripo, one of the Warriorsâ€™ better players of the campaign, has defended the team, saying their failure was due to lack of luck, not poor performance. He dismissed criticism that the players lacked patriotism.
â€œThere is nothing like that,â€ he said. â€œEveryone wanted to play for their country. People think differently and they can criticise us, they are entitled to those views. Pafa munhu hapashayi muroyi (there will always be someone to blame when something goes wrong). We all wanted to do well, obviously, itâ€™s foolish for anyone to suggest that we wanted to lose. Take someone like me or Onismor Bhasera for instance. Weâ€™ve never played in an (African) Nations Cup before. We certainly would love to play at the World Cup too. Would we deliberately lose so that we donâ€™t qualify? Give me a break.â€
But herein lies the criticism against the Warriorsâ€™ Brazilian coach Valinhos. The core of his side, other than Kutyauripo and Bhasera, seemed to lack drive and motivation because they have been to the Nations Cup before, and in the event that Zimbabwe qualified for the World Cup, they would not be assured of places in the squad.
Kutyauripo defended the Brazilian.
â€œI did not see anything wrong with the coachesâ€™ selection or tactics,â€ said the Caps United right-back. â€œLike I said, someone has to be blamed and he is an easy target. Maybe he needed time. You know, he is from Brazil and he was trying to introduce the Samba-style of soccer. Iâ€™m told he might get fired. I donâ€™t think that will solve anything. This business of hiring and firing coaches wonâ€™t take us anywhere. We will continue to move around in circles.â€
He also defended his team-mates, widely slammed by analysts as talentless and hopeless: â€œI think everyone who played did their best. We canâ€™t judge ourselves when we are out there on the park. But I think everyone tried their best..We were just unlucky.â€
The over-lapping fullback scoffed at comments by the Zifa management that the teamâ€™s welfare was well taken care of and therefore entirely to blame for their failure.
â€œIf everything was okay would the players have boycotted training before the Guinea match?â€ he asked.
â€œThat is not true. There were issues. All I can say is admit that welfare issues did not contribute to the results. It was down to what happened on the pitch. People see differently. But we tried our best, results eluded us.â€
Kutyauripo also criticised the astro-turf at Rufaro Stadium, where the Warriors played their home games.
â€œIt was difficult to tackle and the players were always carrying injuries,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™m even still feeling the bruises from the grass-burn. I will never encourage my team Caps to play there, itâ€™s horrible.â€
By Enock Muchinjo