Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Ministry of Sport and Recreation says it hopes for a better working relationship with Zifa this year following some unpleasant encounters in 2016.
Addressing the Bulawayo Press Club on Friday night, Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane challenged Zifa to improve in its governance, saying he doesn’t want any clashes with the football governing body in 2017.
“Just in the year 2016 alone, we had unprecedented clashes with Zifa. Some of them thinly traversing the line of interference and sometimes we will be aware of it that we’re treading on a very thin line between regulation and interference. We’ve done that, but that was necessary in order for Zifa to understand that we will not accept what we do not agree with and that which we perceive as not correct in as far as administration of football in the country is concerned,” said Hlongwane.
“We don’t want to continue on a trajectory where we continue to clash on issues and therefore want a more consultative approach from Zifa on issues that they think affect government and SRC.”
He said his ministry and the Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) had some ugly encounters with Zifa in 2016 and singled out the “dissolution” of Zifa and formation of the National Football Association of Zimbabwe (Nafaz) as an example.
“One of the very bad episodes in my tenure as the new minister was the Nafaz episode. This guy (Phillip Chiyangwa) just decides I’ll change this name and run away from zvikwereti (debts). So we insisted that no, that’s not the case, as a sports movement we have a moral obligation to people that we owe and we must account. It’s bad sportsmanship to run away.
“The meetings we had were fights because Zifa thought they were correct. They were not correct as far as the law is concerned in Zimbabwe; they were not correct as far as interpreting the statutes of Fifa are concerned; they were not correct in terms of interpreting the letter that Fifa had written and we fought very hard around that issue. I’m happy to say we carried the day. That was one nasty experience and we felt that Chiyangwa was stretching it a bit,” Hlongwane said.
He said another unpleasant experience they had with Zifa was last month when the Warriors boycotted the Afcon send-off dinner where Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Acting President then, was set to be guest of honour.
“The question is, at what stage did Zifa know that this (that players would boycott the send-off dinner) was going to happen? And if you are prepared as a national association to do that to a whole Acting President, you have no manners. And for athletes, whatever the cause is, when the President of a country, the Vice President of the country asks you to come and have a dialogue, to have a conversation, you can’t say because Zifa has not paid me I can’t come and meet the Vice President.
“So the question I ask myself and my colleagues is; is our system producing sportspersons or our system is producing something else, and that is why in their wisdom the commission (SRC) decided let’s set up a committee of inquiry to understand why did we get to that place,” he said.
Hlongwane said the Government had never supported football in the manner it did by availing $1 million for the national team to the Afcon and they expected better behaviour.
“Those are not good experiences and we think that a lot needs to be improved at Zifa, and 2017 being a year of governance, if Zifa doesn’t pull up its socks in that area I see that we’re going to have a lot more clashes. If Fifa is going to chase Zimbabwe out for interference, we will be very happy.
“We’ve qualified for Afcon three times, we’ve not made it, it’s time to start afresh and build a credible team, a credible process. So no one is going to hide behind an international federation. This is not a joke, this is serious, you try to hide there ( behind international federation) we will say thank you very much, take the (suspension) letter and file it as we start a process of rebuilding proper structures and systems,” Hlongwane said.
He, however, applauded Chiyangwa and his Zifa team for guiding the Warriors to their first Afcon finals in 10 years, as well as steering the Mighty Warriors to both the Women’s Afcon and Olympic Games.