Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
WITH the president and vice-president’s positions settled, focus in the ZIFA elections has now shifted to the exploding race to fill in the four slots on the board with aspiring candidates upping their game in their bids to convince the football body’s Congress to vote them into office.
Incumbent president Philip Chiyangwa and his deputy Omega Sibanda are now awaiting their coronation by the electoral committee chaired by Vusilizwe Vuma at the end of December 1 elections in Harare. This came after their respective challengers Felton Kamambo and Gift Banda fell by the wayside after being ruled ineligible for the elections owing to the suspensions hanging over their heads. But away from the ZIFA presidency, there are some interesting battles among six candidates vying to secure the four board member positions with current board member finance Philemon Machana headlining that list.
Machana has been credited with transforming ZIFA into an accountable entity and ensuring the association is an institution which stakeholders can trust to do business with again.
Businessman and youth empowerment guru Chamu Chiwanza, media practitioner Barry Manandi, public relations executive Sugar Chagonda, Central Region chairman Stanley Chapeta, and ex-referee Brighton Malandule have all stepped up their acts in their bids to woo the councillors’ votes on December 1.
Such is the heightened campaign trails that it points to healthy but explosive battles in the run up to the polls.
Chiwanza, who led the bid to mobilise resources for the Warriors through the Mzansi ’90 Committee, when Rahman Gumbo’s men came within just a game of qualifying for the 2013 African Cup of Nations, has made no secret of his desire to come and contribute to the revolution that has been unfolding at ZIFA in the last two and a half years. The former Affirmative Action Group president said his interactions with global football icons like Zinedine Zidane and Arsene Wenger had not only touched but inspired him to believe he can play a role in developing and marketing the Zimbabwean game at executive committee level.
“When I had interactions with the likes of Arsene Wenger and Zidane I noted that they had little knowledge of Zimbabwean football. The real football scouts are also always targeting such countries like Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon and they have little knowledge about Zimbabwean players.
“Zidane didn’t seem to know who Peter Ndlovu really was and it dawned on me that the Zimbabwean game had not been marketed enough and I want to help change all that,’’ Chiwanza said.
There is also an interesting outlook in the line-up of candidates with the bulk of them exuding youth, enthusiasm and the passion to drive the national game that has lagged behind other countries. Both Chiwanza and Chagonda, — secretary of newly-promoted Premiership outfit Manica Diamonds — believe their youth and business experience in their spheres will help them make a mark on the game.
“We want a new breed of administrators that can take the brand Zimbabwe to another level. The platform has already been laid by the board that has been there.
“Sport is a unifier and football being the leading sport naturally takes to lead in unifying all tribes, ethnics and I believe as an entrepreneur that as much as we talk about marketing the country we must also ensure that sport takes a leading role in that drive be it tennis, cricket, rugby or athletics.
“Footballers can earn as much as $400 000 per week and surely if we have four, five or many more of our players on such contracts and imagine with the dire need for forex in the country, those players could contribute by sending part of their earnings back home.
“Football speaks to the study of happiness among people and when football is doing well our people are happy and I believe some surveys have shown that incidents such as domestic violence and even suicides are reduced.
“People think only local companies must sponsor football but we have some multinational companies here and they should be lured on board.’’ Chiwanza also spoke about the need to have a well marketed and attractive FA Cup.
“I want to see the return of the ZIFA Cup. Where have you seen a country that is serious about football which does not have the FA Cup which involves lower division teams right up to the top?
“If elected that is one of the major assignments I will drive and I must hasten to add that networking is essential, Zimbabwean football cannot exist in isolation.
“I have met and established networks around the world and there is need to use that to the benefit of our number one sport,’’ Chiwanza said.
Chagonda, currently on national duty in Belgium for the European Union and Kimberly Process Plenary meeting revealed that he had heightened his engagement with councillors to sell the vision he has for the game.
“Football is the most popular sport the world over and I believe an institution like ZIFA must be professionally run and be transformed into a vibrant and attractive public entity.
“It must be an attractive brand and trusted by all stakeholders among them millions of football supporters, the corporate world and government.
“Corporates must be bidding to sponsor but they can only do that if they see and get value. So as a tried football administrators and accomplished broadcaster, PR and marketing practitioner I bring a wealth of experience that I’m sure will help shape and model ZIFA into an institution Zimbabweans want,’’ Chagonda said.
Chagonda also preached the message of continuous engagement with the ZIFA electoral college in their respective area zones, provinces, leagues and regions. He was also happy with the vibrancy of the candidates on show and felt the competition augurs well for the health of ZIFA.
“I think we have been on the sidelines for long yes we have been learning and acquiring experience. If we can’t do it who then will do it?
“I think I have what it takes to contribute to the development of our football. It’s not a question of just passion but being qualified for the job and winning the heart and minds of those who vote.