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Editorial Comment: New brooms bring hope at Zifa

THE ZIFA leadership contest produced some shock results last Sunday, with the country’s football controlling body falling under a new leadership when both its president and vice president were ousted by the councillors.

Philip Chiyangwa had looked the odds-on favourite to be handed a fresh four-year mandate as ZIFA boss, while the good money was also on Omega Sibanda, his lieutenant, retaining his post as vice president.

However, both were well beaten in the elections with Felton Kamambo winning the vote to become ZIFA boss while Gift Banda was elected the association’s vice-president.

Given the way Chiyangwa had skyrocketed to take control of COSAFA, as its leader, getting a post on the Confederation of African Football executive and masterminding the downfall of its long-serving leader Issa Hayatou in the past two years, expectations were that he would easily retain the ZIFA presidency.

But the men and women who vote in such leadership contests had other ideas and decided to have a new leadership under Kamambo, a former member of the same board led by Chiyangwa who stepped down in March arguing that their mandate had expired.

Chiyangwa’s critics have been having a field day celebrating his downfall with some arguing that he had done more harm than good since his spectacular rise to domestic football’s hottest seat two years ago.

There is no question his leadership style, premised on the kind of flamboyance that has characterised his life, did not go down well with some conservatives who believed he was too flashy and his style too unorthodox for such a national responsibility.

His board’s relentless crusade to ban those they felt were critical of them also didn’t go down well with others who believed such authoritarian tendencies were a throwback to the dark days of Cuthbert Dube.

But it would be unfair to dismiss Chiyangwa and Sibanda as outright failures because, in the two years they were in charge, they had a lot of positives and brought life to a game that was on its deathbed when they took over.

The qualification by the Warriors for the 2017 AFCON finals after more than a decade away from the game’s biggest showcase on the continent, and two back-to-back success stories in the COSAFA Cup represented a ray of light and a rainbow of hope.

A COSAFA Cup silver medal won by the Mighty Warriors and a quick resolution of the Tom Saintfiet dispute which had threatened the Warriors with another expulsion from the World Cup qualifiers all represented progress.

The revival of the Young Warriors was a step in the right direction, to see the national Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 back in continental competitions. But a lot still needs to be done as junior football in the country is currently as good as dead.

This is just one of the major areas that the new board would need to invest much of their energies and resources.

That a bankrupt ZIFA that was on the verge of collapse managed to keep doing business, including sending the national teams into battle, while also bringing back accountability through audited financial results, which aided a re-engagement with FIFA in terms of payments of annual grants, was another success story.

Maybe, that explains why Philemon Machana, the man who was in control of ZIFA finances under Chiyangwa, received the highest number of votes, 41, in his successful bid to retain his place on the board. But how they are going to service the ballooning debts remains another critical agenda. The ZIFA debts are now hovering above the $8 million mark, and this could be more if a forensic audit is undertaken.

Refreshingly, we have seen a sober approach by Kamambo, as he begins his tenure as ZIFA boss, with the new leader going on a charm offensive appealing for unity so that the constituency fights as one united family.

He appears to be a decent man and, more importantly a focused leader, who knows that the real battle starts now and he doesn’t have a honeymoon period to celebrate his stunning victory.

He has plunged straight into the job with the humility expected from good leaders and his courtesy call on Chiyangwa was a masterstroke as it showed he wants to work for progress and development of the game.

Of course, we know there are some hawks out there who will be piling pressure on him. Kamambo has to be wary of such divisive figures and instead he should concentrate on providing sound leadership because the country is already watching him closely.

He will be judged by results and it’s not an easy job given the coffers at ZIFA are empty and just putting together the next big assignment, our 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo-Brazzaville in March, will beno stroll in the park.

His decision to retain Sunday Chidzambwa as coach of the Warriors is a sensible one as there is only one game left in the qualifiers with the Warriors top of the group.

Should the Warriors fail in their bid to get to the next AFCON finals, it would be a huge setback for Kamambo and his leadership team, and they have to pull out all the stops to ensure that doesn’t happen.

It’s not an easy job to be ZIFA leader, as both Chiyangwa and Cuthbert Dube found out as they dipped into their pockets to finance the national teams, and Kamambo knows that the biggest scrutiny of his time in football administration has just started.

We wish him well because, to us, what comes first is our country and not individuals and we hope he will perform to expectations.

Source : The Herald

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