Phillip Chiyangwa seems to have taken a commanding lead in the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) elections, with the majority of our powerless and, therefore, helpless soccer lovers kowtowing behind, in frustration.
What sounded like a bad joke at the beginning, is slowly turning out to be real. And by the time we sit for dinner on December 5, Chiyangwa maybe having his name firmly written in black and white as the legitimate successor to Cuthbert Dube.
Chiyangwa seems to have struck the right, but useless chords for this particular Zifa election.
The race for the Zifa presidency is not over yet, and will not be over until election day, but Chiyangwa seems to have scored four critical goals already, leaving the majority Zimbabweans exasperated and engulfed by a feeling of hopelessness.
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It is that feeling of hopelessness among supporters, players and key sponsors that will totally annihilate the local game from the very morning after the election.
Chiyangwa’s first score came with his endorsement by the Zifa Elections Committee that he qualifies to stand as a candidate for the elections. There is a simple constitutional requirement at Zifa, that for one to qualify for election onto the Zifa board, they must have been involved in soccer for at least five years. No one believes Chiyangwa does have that long association with soccer, but he weaved his way by producing evidence that he was part of some “Mickey Mouse” football team in Chinhoyi for the required years. It all sounds fake and doctored. But it is a welcome score, nevertheless, for Chiyangwa.
The second score in Chiyangwa’s bag comes from lack of voting reforms at Zifa. This means that the majority of Zifa councillors, who have failed our soccer for many years themselves, will again take centre stage and sit to define a new leadership trajectory for our soccer. These are the same councillors who overwhelmingly voted for Dube to have a second term last year, despite his first one being a dismal failure. I do not think the majority of them vote with their football brains. To most of them, the election season is auction time. And who better to invite to your auction than mighty Chiyangwa?
The third score is a gift from sections of the mainstream media, and those with authoritative soccer voices. Today, Chiyangwa is being sold to the unsuspecting readers as the “game-changer”, without asking which game he has ever changed his whole life, and how? If our sports editors, who led with graphical illustrations of Dube’s failures when we wanted him gone, cannot lead the national discourse on who best to lead Zifa, based on their past and potential, it is easy to conclude they are part of the grand auction.
The fourth and final score for Chiyangwa in this first half of the elections game is his connection with pseudo organisations and personnel in the name of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters’ Association (ZNSSA) and its “lifetime president” Eddie “Mboma” Nyatanga. He has been openly routing for Chiyangwa, which is his democratic right. He is going around everywhere in Chiyangwa T-shirts, driving around town what others have called a Chiyangwa Mercedes Benz. It is okay for Nyatanga to make hay while the sun still shines. That’s clever of him. But it becomes disturbing and offensive when he and the mainstream media legitimise his mercenary tendencies as a voice of the soccer supporters in Zimbabwe. Which supporters? Where did he get that mandate?
The acceptance and deceptive packaging of this outfit creates an impression, even in the eyes of some councillors, that soccer supporters, including you and I, are firmly behind Chiyangwa.
If we are serious about our soccer, then we must reverse whatever false strides Chiyangwa may have made.
We can’t have a man, whose selfies are providing comical relief on social media, leading our football because he has “money and the looks!” No.
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The Zifa presidency is not about looks and money. It is about enunciating a policy framework that favours the easy, creative and beneficial participation of all soccer stakeholders, including government, sponsors, players and supporters. Simply relying on money is what was wrong with Dube’s tenure. That is what is and will be wrong with Chiyangwa. The election on December 5 is not about a team sponsor.
I can’t imagine Chiyangwa bringing any sustainable development policy to Zifa. His strength is on giving out freebies. But what we need now is to put in place a sustainable development framework for soccer in Zimbabwe.
Can anyone imagine, for a second, Chiyangwa, seating across the table with Douglas Mboweni of Econet, or the guys from Adidas, or Aliko Dangote, discussing a sustainable long-term project that takes care of football and its stakeholders?
Chiyangwa is after self-glory, and is likely to milk from, other than give to the national game. He is exactly what Zimbabwean soccer does not need now.
Gift Mambipiri is a media and Development consultant based in Kadoma. He writes in his personal capacity and can be reached on email@example.com