THE long-standing impasse between the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters’ Association (ZNSSA) and Zifa is now set to come to an end after Sport, Arts and Culture minister Andrew Langa agreed to meet with the supporters and other football stakeholders in a bid to resolve the problems besetting local football.
ZNSSA public relations and communications officer Paddington Japajapa said Langa had invited them to his office after they had initially written to President Robert Mugabe airing their grievances over the administration of Zimbabwean soccer by Zifa.
Sports and Recreation Commission director Charles Nhemachena confirmed the meeting of the minister with members of the supporters’ body.
“I can confirm that the members of the ZNSSA were invited by the minister to his office following a letter which they had written to the President’s Office. It was basically to discuss the contents of that letter and the minister said he was prepared to have an audience with them and that he also wants to hear from the other side,” Nhemachena said yesterday.
Japajapa said the minister told them he had an open-door policy and was ready to have another meeting with them in a bid to find a lasting solution to deep differencies over the local game.
He also told them finger-pointing and name-calling was not the solution for the challenges faced by Zimbabwean football.
The soccer supporters’ body, led by its president Eddie Chivero, however, has requested that the Zifa board and its chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze also be present at the meeting so that they engage them face-to-face in front of the minister.
The ZNSSA has been highly critical of the Zifa leadership, especially the latest board led by Cuthbert Dube, sometimes taking personal potshots which have nothing to with football, over the state of the local game.
“We met the minister and it was clear that he did not want finger pointing and name calling saying it did not help solve any problems. He told us he had an open door policy and that he didn’t want people who fight their wars in the media,” Japajapa said.
“We agreed to have another meeting where they will be the entire Zifa board. We also requested for the Zifa chief executive Mashingaidze to be present at the meeting.
“The chief executive has been fingered as the major cause of the problems we are facing in our football and we want each of the Zifa board members to answer for themselves the questions which will be asked at the meeting.
“Instead of fighting Zifa through the media, we have decided to engage them in front of the minister. We are saying we now want peace and we should bury our differences with the Zifa board.
“We are happy to be given this opportunity to air our grievances. We are inviting all football stake holders to this important meeting. We want those who lost the Zifa elections and every disgruntled football follower.”
ZNSSA have been fighting a losing battle in their bid to dislodge the current Zifa board and seem to have come to their senses with the latest move after Dube won a second term in office in March.
Japajapa said they would put a request to Zifa to pardon those players handed life bans for their involvement in the Asiagate match fixing scandal.
“We are going to put a request to Zifa to pardon those players who were slapped with life bans for their alleged involvement in the Asiagate scandal. We want them to be given a second chance. We feel the punishment imposed on them is too harsh. Even our President Robert Mugabe has pardoned other people before, why can’t we do the same? Certainly, they deserve a second chance,” Japajapa said.
It will be Langa’s second meeting with football stakeholders this year after he addressed a football indaba at the Zifa Village in Mt Hampden outside Harare in June, aimed at resuscitating the nation’s number one sport.
Some of the players and coaches who admitted to their crimes and gave evidence were cleared while some like coaches Norman Mapeza and Methembe Ndlovu have served their sentences and are back in the game.
Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal, the Asiagate match-fixing kingpin, has spoken about the darkest era of Zimbabwean football, which involved more than 100 players, a football club, journalists and Zifa officials under the leadership of them chairman Wellington Nyatanga.
Perumal says of the Zifa leadership between 2007 and 2009: “We were like two hands prepared to clap.”