By Leopold Munhende | Chief Correspondent
ON February 22, 2022 world football governing body FIFA announced the suspension of Zimbabwe for actions that it regarded as government interference in sport, through the Sports and Recreation Commission’s (SRC), at Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA).
May 23, 2022 continental body, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) followed suit, barring the national team and any of the country’s football clubs from competing at its tournaments.
As a result, FC Platinum, the defending champions were not drafted into the CAF Champions League fixtures that were released recently.
The national team has already missed out on World Cup qualifiers, and will not be taking any part at the next AFCON finals.
Regional body COSAFA took similar steps on June 9, 2022, consequently shutting Zimbabwe out of all international competitions.
In all this, Sport Minister Kirsty Coventry was conspicuous by her silence, nonchalance which has been queried by former Highlanders, Caps United and Maritzburg United winger, Gabriel Nyoni, over the past week.
Nyoni’s disgruntlement is based on welfare of players whom he said were already impoverished before the suspension and had hoped participating at these events would leave them in better financial stead.
“What is the minister of sport really doing? Are the leaders seeing what is happening to our football. Clubs excluded from CAF draws. Where are we going? It is like they are just giving a blind eye. Absolute rubbish,” fumed Nyoni.
Sport Minister Kirsty Coventry
“What other worst-case scenario are we waiting for to act as football stakeholders. Our national team banned , our clubs excluded from CAF events. All our stadiums do not meet international standards. It is time we demonstrated against such football leadership.
“We were already earning peanuts as soccer players like any other Zimbabwean, but we had hope that playing In internationally recognized tournaments, might get us noticed by other teams outside the country. Now you are even closing that opportunity for us. Fix it!”
Local football players earn an average of US$400 per month with some, who play for not so financially stable outfits getting way below that.
More players in the local premiership have raised their voices in this matter.
They have started a fast-growing hashtag #PleaseRestoreOurFootballLegacy, their own strategy in ensuring government through the SRC and ZIFA ensures the local game regains its seat among international players.
“Being suspended from all regional and global football activities is a shame while we folding our hands doing nothing about it. As players we have suffered the most, reduced to boozers, no COSAFA, no AFCON, no Championship of African Nations (CHAN), World Cup; who is going to scout local players in Zimbabwe?
“Something needs to be done as soon as possible,” said premiership side, Yadah FC’s Ali Maliselo.
Players have over the years been accused of taking a backseat on matters that affect their livelihood, with ZIFA issues being the main focus.
The consecutive suspensions, however, seem to have triggered a nerve that had been missed in the past.
“As Zimbabwean footballers, the majority of us have no other alternative career we are pursuing, we only depend on football to set a legacy that is financially going to take care of our families perpetually,” said former Highlanders FC defender Ben Musaka who now plays for Harare giants Caps United.
“Imagine how participating in the CAF Super League would have changed the lives of players and stakeholders in clubs such as Caps United, Dynamos and Highlanders. We are all Zimbabweans and let’s take good care of each other for the greater benefit of the nation.
“Let us work swiftly to ensure the suspension is lifted, we beg you ZIFA and SRC to resolve the pressing issues.”
The CAF Super League is a new, financially viable initiative for continental club football, launched this month by CAF president. Caps United and Dynamos were expected to be picked for its initial season, but the round of suspensions could affect their prospects.
“Powers that be (ZIFA and SRC). It is high time this back and forth ends for the sake of players’ careers. A day in a player’s career is a day too many! Young players have already missed many opportunities, already!
“Let us work together to get the ban lifted and give our boys a fair shot in their short careers! Time to do the right thing!” added former Golden Eagles player Ernesto Manandi.