Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa has demanded that his leadership be accorded respect as they battle to keep national football afloat in a tough operating environment under which many an institution could easily have closed shop.
The association has battled long and hard in a harsh economic climate to ensure that national teams fulfil their international obligations with Chiyangwa, his deputy Omega Sibanda and board member Philemon Machana the principal figures in that tireless fight.
The latest of such crucial obligations were the back-to-back African Cup of Nations qualifying matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo where ZIFA had to part with more than $200 000 to ensure a successful fulfilment of the home and away assignments.
Yet in fulfilling such international obligations for the Warriors, the Mighty Warriors and the Young Warriors, the association have had to dig deeper into their own resources and rely on the ingenuity of their board.
It is against this background that Chiyangwa believes his leadership deserves some respect for bringing back a business approach to an institution that had earlier in 2015 been declared technically insolvent, only for the Sport and Recreation Commission to sit on the findings of the Obadiah Moyo probe team.
The ZIFA boss has been telling those who care to listen, especially those in a poisoned football environment that his board needed to make some tough business decisions for the association to stay afloat and ensure that the Warriors are back playing again.
As the Warriors stand on the threshold of a return to the Nations Cup show-piece, Chiyangwa said his ZIFA would continue with their business approach and ensure there is stability in all of the domestic game’s organs.
The Harare business tycoon had earlier also taken time to tell listeners on Capitalk 100.4 FM that his board would continue to pull all the stops to ensure they fulfil their mandate to govern and develop the game in the country.
A case in point is when the Warriors travelled to Kinshasa where they had to source for the scarce foreign currency for the airfares to fly the players from their different bases in Europe and South Africa mostly for the training camp.
The association also needed the hard currency for the Warriors trip to Kinshasa, their upkeep in the DRC capital where to their credit Chidzambwa’s men went a little earlier in order to accord themselves enough time to settle down, get down to some hard work and still have occasion to recover.
“I think when I came in (December 2015) there was a crisis which you are all well aware of and I sort of came in as a crisis manager.
“We had to get rid of the negativity that had become the order of the day, there was no day that would pass without the media reporting on the negativity that was prevalent in the game.
“I am doing the best I can with the team that I have and we are not going to look back, we just want to continue to achieve more,’’ Chiyangwa said.
World soccer governing body FIFA have also restored confidence in ZIFA and have resumed release of tranches of FIFA Forward Funds upon presentation of audited accounts and budgets.
Chiyangwa admitted, however, that ZIFA still needed to improve on game management with the Warriors night match against the Leopards which raked in just over $78 000 providing them some harsh lessons from the problems encountered during that match.
ZIFA also apologised to the fans who ensured a frustrating night at the turnstiles with Chiyangwa indicating that the future solution lies in securing machines that would scan out any fake tickets.
“Zimbabwe Football Association would like to express sincere gratitude to all supporters who watched the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier match between the Warriors and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday night. We are humbled by your support. A total of 13 090 fans paid to watch the match and we collected a gross amount of $78 669,00. However, it is the organising committee’s contention that approximately over 30 000 were at the National Sports Stadium to watch the match.
“The Association regrets the unfortunate crowd trouble and stampede which occurred at some entry points. We are very thankful that no life was lost.
“The match organisation committee which comprises of all relevant stakeholders met on Friday, the 19th of October to introspect on what went wrong and to proffer solutions going into the future.
“We would like to inform our beloved fans that gates were opened at 4pm, well ahead of the 7pm kick-off. Twenty-one (21) gates were opened out of the thirty (30) gates because the other nine (9) were not functioning,’’ ZIFA said in a statement.
But it is the bigger picture of the achievements that the national teams have recorded that Chiyangwa, who also dramatically rose to become the COSAFA president and a member of the CAF executive committee, believes even their biggest critics and detractors, needed to respect them.
ZIFA have also opened up to players around the globe who are of Zimbabwean origin to take a crack at selection into the Warriors.
As a result of that new approach, Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa and CEFN Druids’ Alec Mudimu have already made their mark in the Warriors with more players such as McCauley Bonne and Kelvin Lunga among those expected to regularise their documents before the 2019 Nations Cup qualification campaigns ends.
The ZIFA boss is well aware of a number of machinations that have been made to try and make football ungovernable while others have been clandestinely working to dislodge his
board via what he termed “The Pull Him Down Syndrome’’ And hoping to use results to strengthen their agenda.
Chiyangwa also insisted that one of the major distinctions between his leadership and some previous administrators was that he had not come at the association to make a living.
“We had people who were in football for money, people that were fleecing this association for their selfish gains and when we came in we said let anyone who is owed by ZIFA bring physical proof of what they did and they all ran away.
“ZIFA’s current position is very good, we don’t want people who will destroy our game anymore but if one thinks he wants to come on board, let him or her do so. Certainly I cannot please anybody but if people want our football, our Zimbabwe to shine, they must give me that space and let me do my job.
“ZIFA was broke before because anyone could make a decision, some bad decisions which would not ensure that the players would still be able to come here and play. All I want is for Zimbabweans to enjoy their football again and to provide a platform for players to come and express their talents and put the country on the map.
“Football is business and in business you cannot afford to be apologetic,” said Chiyangwa.
Chiyangwa also laughed off at suggestions that he needed to step aside from the game and focus on his position in parliament arguing that many football administrators across the continent have been politicians but still holding offices at their various associations.
“Are people aware that the man I campaigned for to be CAF president (Ahmad) was a politician, a speaker of parliament (of Madagascar)? A number of FA presidents we have now are also politicians but like we are saying as long as one meets the requirements as spelt out in the constitution let them come on board and be in the race,” said Chiyangwa.
ZIFA’s election season is now heading towards its business end with nominations now open for those seeking places on the board.