At a time when anything to do with Zifa is suspicious, all-weather friends are smelling the beginning of a new era in local football and are ready to be part of that even before 53 Livingstone Avenue, Harare, is cleansed of its mess.
First it was Mbada Diamonds when they poured millions of dollars into the Premier Soccer League for the 2011 Mbada Diamonds Cup.
They followed that by signing up to be major sponsors of the senior national team, the Warriors. They have provided camping allowances, appearance fees and winning bonuses for all matches Warriors have played this year and have promised even more. They lead a committee codenamed “Mzansi90” and announced last Tuesday the intent to raise $500 000 for the second leg of the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Angola on October 14.
Next was Marange Resources with a $3 million sponsorship of the Zimbabwe Women’s Football League. We now have a competitive league – the second best in the region after South Africa – where teams have no business worrying about accommodation and transport to match venues.
This past weekend, we witnessed another milestone as Rio Tinto Murowa Diamonds came to the rescue of the Under-17 football team with a $10 000 donation at short notice. The Young Warriors host Congo at Rufaro Stadium next week and camp was already in disarray ahead of the match.
When the Young Warriors drew 2-2 at home in the first leg, no one gave them any hope going into the second leg in Maputo, Mozambique, but they shamed all detractors and won 2-0 after a road journey that took more than 24 hours. For that achievement, they are $10 000 richer and the boys might receive a few dollars for their sweat, thanks to Murowa.
The commitment by Murowa is welcome and moreso, the very fact that grassroots development is the cornerstone of any serious football nation. Without such initiatives, there would be no feeder programme for the senior national team. What is now vital is to safeguard the sponsorships and synergies by engaging in prudent financial care.
We all know that for the last six years things have not been well at Zifa, mainly because of the match-fixing scandals that started in 2006 under Wellington Nyatanga and the new administration, led by Cuthbert Dube, has failed to bring finality to Asiagate.
This has kept the corporate sector guessing whether the national association is heading in the right direction.
Dealing with the corporate sector is a very delicate issue. It needs clean hands and reassurances that their names will not be dragged into the mud. Last week a football indaba convened by the Education, Sport, Arts and Culture ministry sought to bring finality to this scourge and we hope the independent committee dealing with this is seeing things in the same vein as the rest of Zimbabwe. Dragging it further than the next match against Angola will simply be disastrous, as we need the best arsenal for the “Battle of Luanda”.
It is, as we welcome Murowa Diamonds today, necessary that Zifa works out a plan of action that will re-assure the sponsors that their investments and corporate images will be protected. We hope Murowa is here to stay and want to be part of the football community as they have also been part of the National Youth Games in the past.