By Tadious Manyepo and Ellina Mhlanga
ZIFA councillors yesterday moved to end any doubts to serve under Philip Chiyangwa when members of the congress endorsed his election, unopposed, ahead of the association’s December 1 poll. The Harare property mogul, his deputy Omega Sibanda and board member finance Philemon Machana yesterday received the full backing of congress in messages conveyed by provincial chairmen.
Chiyangwa and Sibanda have been retained as president and vice president after their only challengers, Felton Kamambo and Gift Banda, fell foul of the electoral code as they are ineligible to take part in the polls.
Machana will however, have to face five other contestants in the race to fill in the four board member slots on the ZIFA executive committee.
But the manner in which he has brought sanity to ZIFA accounts in the period he has been in office since December 2015 seems to have won Machana the hearts of Congress, with councillors believing that just like Chiyangwa and Sibanda, he deserves to stay on.
In a major show of endorsement for the trio of Chiyangwa, Sibanda and Machana, the provincial chairpersons also presented them with awards of excellence for the manner in which they have turned around an association that was teetering on the brink of collapse and weighed down by a crippling and yet rising debt.
The chairpersons presented Chiyangwa and his colleagues with shields that resemble the ZIFA logo.
Manicaland Province chairperson Kuziva Nyabeza, who is the secretary-general of the provincial leaders’ grouping, described the board trio as “heroes who deserved a special place whenever football matters are being discussed.
“I would like to call these guys (Chiyangwa and his men) heroes. When they came into office in 2015, they were six, but (now) they are only three.
“Soccer is a big game, it’s a game of many people, everybody thinks they know soccer but these guys I want to thank them, they have ignored all the noise.
“It’s like they know their goal, there are noises in life, just listen to one voice. I think they have listened to one voice, that’s why we are here.
“So as provincial chairpersons we have said these guys are heroes. They have taken us through. ZIFA had such a bad image, of course there are some, those are the noises I am talking about they still see the bad things they don’t see the good things which we are seeing.
“But we are saying these guys (the board trio) have remained focused,” said Nyabeza.
Mashonaland West chairperson Derrick Matapure, who co-ordinated the meeting, also praised Chiyangwa and his colleagues.
“Presenting these awards to them does not mean that they are perfect individuals. Presenting these awards to them does not mean that they are super beings in football. They still need our support. We will continue to support them as provincial chairpersons.
“Our regional office bearers within football are also going to continue to support them. Everyone else who is a football stakeholder will also be going to support them,” Matapure said.
It was not immediately clear whether the chairpersons had drawn their isolation from the move by African leaders to come together with leaders from other Confederations to openly declare their support of FIFA president Gianni Infantino ahead of the world soccer governing body’s elections.
African Football Associations and their counterparts from the Caribbean last week united to strongly condemn the European media for the recent targeting of Infantino, insisting the FIFA President has their resolute support in the wake of some damaging leaks.
All the zonal football bodies in Africa and the Caribbean issued a statement last Tuesday from Cairo, Egypt, to back the Swiss official after the latest instalment of the so-called Football Leaks data set.
The powerful group of African and Caribbean football leaders said they would fight against the attempts by the European media to “denigrate” the FIFA President with elections slated for next year.
In almost similar fashion, all the country’s 10 provinces came together to throw their weight behind Chiyangwa and implored him to put shoulders to the wheel as he had been handed a fresh mandate to administer ZIFA.
Just like the African and Caribbean leaders, local ZIFA councillors implored Chiyangwa, Sibanda and Machana not to be distracted by some hawks who had been clandestinely plotting their downfall.
Chiyangwa, in thanking the chairpersons and Congress at large for reposing confidence in his executive, made a passionate plea to the Government to bankroll national sporting associations.
The Warriors will fly from their respective bases direct to Monrovia for an African Cup of Nations qualifying fixture against the Lone Star, who are highly motivated having been reportedly promised a cool US$30 000 each should they emerge winners against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
Zimbabwe top Group G on eight points, three above second-placed DRC. Congo Brazzaville and Liberia are sitting on four points each. Liberia anchor the group on goal difference but a win against the Warriors, who need just a point from the match to secure their own qualification, will boost their chances of gate-crashing into the Nations Cup party in Cameroon next year.
ZIFA had been hoping they could charter a plane to avoid the travel inconveniences of the African jungle, but the lack of resources forced them to drop those plans.
A charter flight would have needed $150 000.
Chiyangwa stressed the need for the Government to fund national associations if sport in the country was to grow at a decent speed.
The ZIFA boss said Sibanda and him should use their parliamentary seats to try and lobby for support from the Government, pointing out that other national sporting associations on the continent are bankrolled by their governments.
“With Omega (Sibanda) and myself being parliamentarians, we need also to make sure that the football that we play is also given some support. You know there is no financial support that comes from the Zimbabwean Government at the moment.
“It’s the only Government that does not give any money to football. All governments in Africa have a budget for their national teams. Right now as it is, we are supposed to send a team to Liberia, we have to fork it out of our own pockets or wait for something to make it happen.
“So these are the things that we want to make sure that they are provided for,” said Chiyangwa.
“So the issue is we have been working (hard) but we need funding from the Government to be vibrant. Right now Machana (Philemon) is supposed to buy tickets for all the players flying from different bases to Liberia. The money comes from us . . . it’s not coming from the Government which is not what other governments do to their own national football associations.
“All national associations in other countries are funded by the government, they are not funded by the national associations, where does the association get the money from?
“And I am sure this is not about that I came to football to get some money, I came to football to sort out a mess that was there. There was no football, there was nothing… and we want to make sure that there are no more problems even after we are not there that’s my promise, that’s my commitment.
“We need the Government to put money into national associations so that those national associations participate in international events. Everything you have seen us fulfil, we have had to either use my money or borrow from a friend and so forth,” Chiyangwa said.