BY HENRY MHARA CAPS United star Emmanuel Mandiranga has described the country’s isolation from the international football arena as a “hindrance” to a better future for local footballers while former Dynamos midfielder Wisdom Mutasa has described the impasse between the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the Zifa as a “total mess”.
Zimbabwe was in March banned by Fifa from all international football activities for government interference after the SRC dissolved a Zifa board led by Felton Kamambo.
The sports regulator suspended the Zifa board last year over a litany of allegations which are yet to be substantiated.
Fifa has refused to endorse the suspension, and as a consequence, Zimbabwe was banned from participating in international football.
The Warriors were subsequently booted out of the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon), the African Nations Championships (Chan) and the Cosafa qualifiers while the Mighty Warriors were also barred from participating in international and continental qualifiers.
Retired former Caps United player Gabriel Nyoni said he was also not amused, and has urged local footballers to take a strong stand against the fighting administrators so that they can be forced to the negating table.
The trio took to social media to voice their concerns, and it is the first time that local player have summoned guts to call out on SRC and Zifa to resolve their differences so that the country can be readmitted back into the Fifa family.
Mandiranga, who recently joined the Green Machine from Harare City, complained that local footballers were missing out on many opportunities which come with playing international football.
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“It is the dream of all Zimbabwean footballers, including myself, to play abroad and be financially stable, change lives of our local communities and families,” Mandiranga wrote on his social media pages.
For the first time in a long time, no local players joined any South African club during the transfer window which closed a fortnight ago.
“The suspension of the local football has come as a hindrance to achieving that dream because of a lot of opportunities to be scouted let alone representing our beloved Zimbabwe. The more time we spend without resolving the issues at hand, the more we throw many local talents in the dustbin. We are asking for urgency in solving the problems in our local football and for the suspension to be lifted so that our sole profession is recognised regionally and worldwide.”
Local clubs are bearing the brunt of the Fifa ban too as they are also prohibited from competing in all Caf inter-club competitions including the recently launched African Super League which has a large financial return for sides taking part.
Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders were set to compete in the annual continental club football competition where they were each supposed to receive a cash injection of US$2,5 million.
“We come in peace and in harmony for the love of football. It is our major source of livelihood and without it being properly managed thousands can easily be turned into criminals,” said Mutasa who plays for Costa do Sol in Mozambique.
“Recent statistics of Zimbabwean local footballers caught on the wrong side of the law is strong evidence of the mess we are in as footballers in Zimbabwe. The Caf/Fifa suspension has blocked a lot from achieving their dreams of moving to greener pastures, make a decent living out of football just like white collar workers and executives in corporates. Please set your differences aside to ensure the suspension is lifted as soon as yesterday for the betterment of the entire economy of Zimbabwe.”
Nyoni, who previously played for Highlanders and Caps United, said it was time local footballers made a public expression of disapproval against the authorities.
The midfielder was playing for Maritzburg United in South Africa before an injury cut short his career this year.
“They are having internal conflicts, while time, chance and opportunities for soccer players are passing by. Playing football without recognition, no Afcon, no Chan, no Cosafa. It’s time for players to stand for their own future. Take a knee before every game,” Nyoni posted.
Taking the knee is part of a long history of athletes using sport as a platform to draw attention to the racial inequalities that communities of colour experience, usually in white majority countries.
“What other worst case scenario are we waiting for to act as football stakeholders? Our national team was banned, our clubs excluded from Caf events. All our stadiums don’t meet international standards. It’s time we demonstrate against such leadership,” the former Highlanders and Caps United speedster added.
SRC suspended the Kamambo-led Zifa executive board last year over allegations that include misappropriation of public funds.
It has since reinstated some members of the Zifa executive board minus Kamambo and two others.
However, Fifa is adamant that Kamambo should be reinstated for the ban to be lifted.
The world football governing body has said it will not recognise the new Zifa board led by Gift Banda.
Other prominent footballers who have publicly frowned upon the SRC stance are Warriors and France-based star Marshal Munetsi as well as Khama Billiat.
- Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara