Glorification that breeds contempt

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AS Zimbabwe prepared to host last year’s Cosafa Women’s Championship in Bulawayo, the country’s most recognised vernacular newspaper ran a big preview in which Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda urged on the host team to rise up to the challenge in the tournament.

Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo

You would not really figure it out if the choice of Sibanda as the main voice in that story was by design or default, but it was quite appropriate, for me, that he should be the one rallying the Mighty Warriors in a tournament being hosted in that part of the country — where he is the most influential figure in the game.

It only becomes inappropriate and quite unfortunate, when you think about it, that the article — spread across the entire back-page of the publication — comes complete with an overbearing picture of Sibanda only and none of the team.

So a feel-good story about women’s sport — which should capture beauty, style, athleticism and feminine power — gets “graced” by the masculine image of a burly male in a dark suit, looking sternly into us almost self-importantly and menacingly!
The patriarchal bias of this debate is a subject for another day, another forum — my greatest concern is the appalling tendency of football administrators in this country to steal the thunder from the players, coaches and fans, the real people who make sport the spectacle that it is.

Most worryingly of all is how this culture of deification and giving prominence to officer bearers at the expense of the players has been accepted hook, line and sinker by a lot of us as shown by the most unnecessary picture of Sibanda — who we should pardon on this one because he does not control the editorial content of newspapers.

This, disgracefully, not only helps administrators bask in the limelight, but also aid them in diverting attention from the real issues affecting the game.

And in what would have passed for a master-class in diverting attention, Zifa boss Phillip Chiyangwa announced this week on the association’s official website that he “will shift focus to international football portfolios” until the end of March.
The statement further states that “all scheduled meetings with the president within the period in concern have been shelved indefinitely.”

Zifa, however, did not see it necessary to inform us of the actual amount of days Chiyangwa, who is also the Cosafa president, will spend away from Zimbabwe on his “international football portfolios” business.

How many hours or days will Chiyangwa spend on the Cosafa Annual General Meeting, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) ordinary general meeting and the Fifa Executive Football Summit that he will be attending?

There is, of course, nothing improper in Chiyangwa’s commitments to his international portfolios.

Just that there is something conspicuously wrong in that short statement by Zifa, too casual and trivialising for an announcement to a football-crazy nation of a lengthy absence from office by the country’s national association president.

Too dismissive a statement — as if to imply that Zifa and Chiyangwa do not owe anyone an explanation at all.

And you ask yourself if this is not the result of the kind of deification created by chuffing pictures of guys in designer suits when it is the players that should be the star attraction.

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