National teams must not be used as pawns in Zifa fights

Editorial Comment

THE current Zifa leadership led by Felton Kamambo is under siege following its failure to raise a national women’s team to fulfil a home Olympics Games second leg qualifier against Zambia, which had been set for the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

There has been a barrage of criticism, with the debacle even attracting those that do not usually care about football.

The story of the Mighty Warriors has stirred a lot of emotions over the last few days, with the general feeling being that the women’s national team players are often mistreated while their under-achieving male counterparts are often feted like kings.

On Saturday, some clubs chose to withdraw their players from the national team, reasoning that the players had not been paid their dues for participation at the Cosafa Cup a month ago.

While it is undisputable that the Mighty Warriors have been under-appreciated by the national association over the years, the withdrawal of players by clubs reeks of sabotage.

There are many questions that arise from the whole thing. Why didn’t the clubs refuse to release the players even before the first leg?

Why did they have to wait until a day before the match to go and pluck the players out of camp? Was this a calculated move to make sure that Zifa would fail to raise a team to, at least, fulfil a fixture and avoid the inevitable sanctions that may include a lengthy ban?

It seems the withdrawal episode was not meant to benefit the players because if Zimbabwe is banned, most of the players that would have played on Sunday may see their international careers ending.

Everyone has got issues with the way Mighty Warriors are treated by Zifa, particularly compared to the men’s team.

The women’s team is often forced to camp at the substandard Zifa Village and they get measly allowances, if they get paid at all.

Zifa need to fix that and come up with a policy on how it pays its players across the board. But when clubs that are affiliated to the same Zifa can go and get their players out of national team camp hours before kick-off of an international match, it is just a case of Zimbabwe shooting itself in the foot.

Zimbabwe may miss out on future tournaments sanctioned by Fifa and the same players will miss out on international opportunities.

There could have been other ways employed to try and force Zifa to pay the players and the withdrawal of players, particularly on the eve of a match, was not only a national embarrassment, but a self-destructive move.

As things stand, we as a nation are fighting among ourselves as Zambia stroll through to the next round.

When people fight for whatever reasons, they should not use national teams as pawns or battle grounds.

We have got junior players that are coming up who will be affected by such greedy and self-centred political decisions.

Some of these clubs that withdrew their players on the eve of an important match are not even paying those same players, but at the end Zimbabwe and the players pay the price.

While the government does not have a great track record in fixing the malaise in sports, lack of options, legal or otherwise, to fix this mess means Zimbabwe has no other way or wherewithal to fix the chaos at Zifa.

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