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Zim football: We get the leadership we deserve

No clue about football but buying his way to Zifa presidency? ... Phillip Chiyangwa

13/11/2015 00:00:00
by Enock Muchinjo
Looking to head Zifa ... Phillip Chiyangwa

ALL I know of Phillip Chiyangwa is from the stuff I’ve read or heard – the much talked about vast wealth and, to borrow a cliché long associated with him, the perceived flamboyance.

I have never personally encountered the man, and I’ve never harboured any desire to.

Chiyangwa and I (until very recently I must say) live in two totally different worlds; me, a lowly newsman immersed into the world of sports and him, a property tycoon said to be one of Zimbabwe’s richest people.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my sports journalism career to have privileged close-up access to top international and Zimbabwean sports personalities at home and abroad and enjoyed hearty chats with a lot of them in the process.

Logically, because of a life consumed by sport, it is from these circles that I draw most of my inspiration and choose my role models.

So I have nothing personal against Chiyangwa, and I daresay he wouldn’t be aware of my existence either.

That point hammered home, I will frankly declare that my reaction on reading of Chiyangwa’s candidature for the upcoming Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) presidential elections was one of disdain and utter disgust.

I will not be drawn into commenting on Chiyangwa’s administration skills in his other different managerial roles – that is not what this piece aims to achieve and I’m sure there are others better qualified to do so. 

But in the post he now seeks - leadership of Zimbabwean football - Chiyangwa has demonstrated quite clearly before even assuming office that he lacks understanding of the finer intricacies of the game.

And that Chiyangwa has not played football, administered it or previously seen anywhere near where the game was played does not influence my attitude a bit. As much as I was initially willing to accept the possibility that I could be wrong, the more convinced I got that he, in fact, is not the right man to head an association governing this national pastime called football.

I challenge you to take a look at how he has been going about his campaign, especially those selfies circulating on WhatsApp and other social media networks.

I’ve come across most of these video recordings with amazement at the man’s weird antics, but the installment that really nudged me to start clicking away at my keyboard is one recently forwarded to me by a friend in which Chiyangwa is filmed alongside Eddie Chivero of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association and an unidentified associate. In the video, Chiyangwa bafflingly promises “to take Zimbabwe to Fifa and Caf” if elected Zifa president.


Tiri kuda kusvikawo ku Fifa… iyi iplatform chete yekuti tiendewo kupi? … ku Caf, Caf, Fifa! (we want to reach Fifa…this is a platform for us to go to Caf, Caf, Fifa!”)

Astonished by Chiyangwa’s rather meaningless statement, the accompanying text from my friend was:  “Hanzi we need to go kuFifa, Caf. What is he saying?”

Zimbabwe is a member of both world football governing body Fifa and the controlling confederation of the game in Africa, Caf.

“Perhaps he meant to say Fifa World Cup and Caf Africa Cup of Nations!,” I sarcastically responded.

Quick as a flash, came the sharp retort from my friend: “Ah come on man, he will be so chuffed with himself if he was able to say that!”

One of the characters in the video, Eddie Chivero, who probably thinks we all suffer from a high susceptibility to memory loss, seems to suggest that Chiyangwa must be voted in as Zifa president because of his wealth.

Bhora riri kunetsa nekuti hakuna mari, timu iri kuda kuenda kwakati hakuna mari. Saka solution yatiri kuda ndiPhidza (our football is struggling because there is no money, the national team fails to travel because of lack of money. So the solution we want is Phidza),” Chivero is heard saying.

Now, most of us haven’t forgotten that back in January 2014, when Chivero and his supporters outfit initially tried to force the ousted Zifa boss Cuthbert Dube out of office; they had publicly charged him, among others things, with personally funding the sport out of failure to secure corporate sponsorship as promised in his election manifesto.

Zimbabwe football tragedy

Stepped down ... Former Zifa president Cuthbert Dube (left)


“Zifa is a brand on its own which should be generating its money,” Chivero was quoted by reporters as saying. He added that Dube was doing “exactly the opposite” of what he had promised in his manifesto.

Just under two years later, Chivero doesn’t think the same rules should apply to Chiyangwa. No, Zifa doesn’t need a competent sports administrator to be Zifa president, it needs another Cuthbert Dube, another cash cow!

The tragedy for Zimbabwean football is that it has allowed certain loud, shadowy characters outside the official structures of the game to shove their relevance down everyone’s throats, muscling their way into positions where now they have a big, big say in how the game is run in the country. Worst of all, they hold the destiny of Zimbabwean football in their hands and ultimately determine who should govern the sport.

It begs the question – who is the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association? Where do they receive their mandate from? Which fans do they represent exactly? Surely not the everyday football fans we all know who genuinely love the game and pay their hard-earned cash to fill stadiums every weekend.

Surely not the same fans who have overwhelmingly expressed their disapproval, for the Zifa presidency, of an opportunist candidate and a political game player; the same fans whose voices look set to be disregarded by the so-called voting councillors come election day on December 5.

Such outfits like Chivero’s don’t serve the interests of the people and the game they purport to represent and love, they only serve the interests of an elite within the association. Currently, Zimbabwe is a very confused footballing country.

On the outside, we still have all the trappings of a nation that loves the game, and the talent to go with it. We recognise football as our number one sport, and indeed attendances compared to other sporting codes testify to that.

Yet a look from the inside demonstrates that we are still behind most nations in Africa in terms of how the game is administered, its development and infrastructure. Perilously, we have a shadowy clique and voter group that play a very dangerous money game. That selfishness and greed has taken over Zimbabwean football is now an open secret and talk of town.

We saw it when Benjani Mwaruwari arrived in Harare from South Africa a fortnight ago with a burning desire to challenge for the Zifa presidency. Unashamedly, those well known to be campaigning in the other camp were seen jostling for his attention and in apparent awe of the former Warriors captain, desperately looking for spillovers from the former Manchester City forward’s dinner table.

Benjani, who is no fool, quickly snapped his wallet shut after realising he was being deceived. He caught the next available flight back to Jo’burg, to a much saner world, away from the madness of Zimbabwean football.

And after he was disqualified from running for the top Zifa post due to young age, the madness he saw had probably sapped him of his desire to plough back his expertise into Zimbabwean football by at least challenging for a seat on the board.

If what they say that leaders are an extreme example of the unresolved psychology of a people is true, then the Zimbabwean football-loving public can only hope it won’t suffer, once again, for the decisions of a small but powerful clique within the game.

Enock Muchinjo is former Sports Editor of the Daily News. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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