By SPORTS REPORTER
FORMER Zifa vice-president and Member of Parliament Omega Sibanda ranks the suspended Zifa board led by Felton Kamambo as the best to have taken charge of local football, and says their banishment is motivated by vengeance by some officials at the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
Kamambo and his executive were suspended by SRC last November on several allegations which include misappropriation of public funds, incompetence, and concealing allegations of sexual harassment of female referees that were raised against some members of Zifa.
The suspension attracted the attention of Fifa, which has since banned Zimbabwe from international football for government interference.
As part of the conditions to lift the ban, SRC has to reinstate the suspended Zifa board.
But SRC is adamant and against the advice of Fifa, has since set up a “Zifa Restructuring Committee” to oversee the running of football in the country.
Sibanda, who was the vice-president under Cuthbert Dube and Philip Chiyangwa, has been vocal against the SRC’s decision.
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He says Kamambo’s executive outperformed ALL its predecessors.“Maybe Kamambo doesn’t have the character which people might want. He is not charismatic, and he doesn’t have that clout, but let’s look at positives. This executive made history in Zimbabwe football.They are the only football executive in the history of our football to qualify the senior men’s national team for the Afcon [Africa Cup of Nations] twice in one sitting. It’s a fact. We should applaud them for that. They did well, no one had done that before,” said Sibanda, who is a Member of Parliament for Vungu.
Kamambo’s executive qualified the team to the 2019 and 2021 Afcon finals as well as the 2020 Chan finals.
Sibanda said some of Kamambo’s outstanding achievements included clearing Zifa’s legacy debt, which had ballooned to $8 million as well as acquiring assets for the association like a pool vehicle, a new minivan and two conventional buses.
All the national team age groups fulfilled their international assignments.
“You look at people like our former coach (Reinhard) Fabisch, who would fill the National Sports Stadium because he was charismatic. These guys (Kamambo and his executive) didn’t have that. Maybe that is how they are, but in terms of achievement and their mandate, they did exceptionally well. The boys (Warriors) played, the girls (the Mighty Warriors) played and the junior teams played,” Sibanda said.
“Remember, these guys operated during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they still managed to qualify to the Afcon finals. That the team didn’t play well at Afcon is neither here nor there. That qualification alone earned the country over a million dollars from Caf. I’m requesting and pleading with SRC that it should find sense to what it did and find friendship so that we continue with our football.”
He said he was surprised that SRC picked on football when all the other sport codes in the country were also dying.
“Tell me one sport in the country that is doing well? No sport is doing well, no podium finishes.”
Sibanda described SRC’s charges as frivolous.
“Why would SRC demand for accountability for money that they didn’t give to Zifa? It’s not their money so they can’t charge Zifa. If the Zifa congress is happy with the financials, that’s OK, and Fifa will continue to give us more money. If SRC says it doesn’t know about those financials, so why did it charge Zifa. It accuses Zifa of misappropriation of funds, basing on what? Whose money?”
He said the Fifa ban would hurt Zimbabwe football.
With the ban, Zimbabwe national teams will not participate in international matches organised by Fifa and Caf.
That means the Warriors will be excluded from the Afcon qualifiers which begin next month.
Local clubs will not play in the Caf Champions League and the Confederations Cup.
Fifa sanctions would also see the world governing body closing financial taps on Zimbabwe, which has been the heartbeat of Zifa and local football.
Local referees will also be barred from taking part in international assignments and participating in seminars organised by the body, and Caf.
Furthermore, the country will lack representation in regional and international conventions and no Zimbabwean will be eligible to contest for any post in Fifa and Caf or its affiliated bodies like Cosafa
“The implications are just massive. The country can’t sell any player outside. Even Marvelous (Nakamba) wants to move to Everton now, but he cannot. If his contract expires, he can only renew. He needs a reverse international clearance, which is done by Zifa. I’m also told Tino Kadewere wants to move to England and there are a lot more players who want to move,” said Sibanda, who is also a player agent, and claims has moved 213 players out of the country.
“Zimbabwe football is going to lose a lot. The vendors who sell their wares at stadiums during international games are going to lose out. Potraz [Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe] get income from the SMSes that people send asking for results.
“Players have bought and built houses through football. Football is big business, Fifa is the biggest money-making industry in the world in terms of income. The Cosafa congress which was supposed to happen in Victoria Falls this April has been moved. Hotels there were going to be fully booked for the entire period and we would have earned money as a country. But we have lost out. The tourism industry also benefits. But someone sitting on his high chair doesn’t see all that.”
Sibanda founded Windermere, which later sold its franchise to premier league side Bulawayo Chiefs.
He does not see eye-to-eye with Kamambo, but says he will not take their personal battle “to football”.
Sibanda was one of the people that were banned by Kamambo from football when he rose to power.
“Let’s not make this issue personal. They suspended me and got me arrested. I don’t have a problem with that because I know it’s personal, but I don’t take the fight to football, which will affect everyone. It doesn’t concern the ordinary Zimbabwean,” he said.
“If we are leaders, let’s put personal issues aside and be objective. If they have their issues, let them sort them out away from the public spaces, or else you are no longer a leader.”
Kamambo has claimed that one of the main reasons why SRC is fighting his board is because the sport regulator’s chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa wants to get back at the association vice-president Philemon Machana.
It is alleged that Mlotshwa and Machana worked for the same financial services institution in 2002.
It is said during the time, Mlotshwa, who was the company secretary, was arrested after he sought to criminally take over one of the subsidiaries of the group.
Machana, who was the accountant, was called in to give evidence, which led to Mlotshwa reportedly incarcerated for about two weeks in remand prison.
Sibanda said the SRC’s suspension of the Zifa board could be to divert attention from their own failures.
“Those guys have failed to install bucket seats at the National Sports Stadium, and had we not been banned, we were going to play our home matches outside the country,” he said.
The National Sports Stadium, the only stadium that was being used by the Warriors, has since been barred from hosting international matches until it has been renovated to meet minimum standards required by Caf.
SRC, which is in charge of the stadium, has failed to install bucket seats and electronic turnstiles, as well as setting up a venue operations centre.
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