THE 2018 FIFA World Cup is in full swing and, so far, it has met all the expectations with some majestic individual and team performances and the drama of some lightweights who have delighted the globe by punching above their weight.
The Russians have, so far, defied alarmist Western media hawks by staging what has been a flawless global football fiesta which has been spiced, in a very big way, by beautiful sights and great sounds from the terraces.
Millions of Zimbabweans have been following the action with many supporting the cause of their African brothers who are representing the continent in Russia with the victory by Senegal, the first win by an African team in the opening matches at this World Cup, triggering wild celebrations across the country.
Of course, we would have wanted our beloved Warriors to be there in Russia because we still believe that the quality of players that we have, and the collective spirit they have in abundance, they would have made it to Russia had they been handed the chance to compete for a place at the finals.
We, however, believe we have an obligation as proud Africans to support those teams from the continent who are representing Africa in Russia because their success is also the collective success of the game on this continent.
Regrettably, while all the focus is on the World Cup, and at a time when we should be having an introspection as a nation while also picking some vital lessons of how we can one day get there, we find ourselves in familiar territory where all that matters to us are ugly boardroom battles.
The Sport and Recreation Commission leaders, rather than providing the leadership that we expect from them in picking some vital lessons from this World Cup have, regrettably, retreated into their weird world where all that matters to them are the same ugly boardroom fights which have crippled our national game and prevented it from realising its full potential.
The SRC’s surprise, if not childish, decision to resort to threats of suspending the ZIFA board at a time they should be leading an introspection as to what we should do to one day feature at the World Cup, is as unfortunate as it is pathetic.
One, the timing is wrong, because this isn’t the time to try and settle old scores in missions dressed in fake robes as a pursuit for good governance.
And, two, it just shows that those who are in charge of the SRC are driven by an ugly agenda in which the bigger picture of the country’s success on the international scene, and all the good things it brings, doesn’t matter to them.
Three, it is as ill-advised as it is self-destructive because we all know that, even if the SRC were to go ahead and invoke the suspension, it’s the country that will suffer the most because the reaction from FIFA will be swift with our Warriors being banned from the 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
That the same SRC that turned a blind eye to the tsunami that eventually ended with our Warriors being barred from the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers, as they could not provide the former ZIFA leadership with a financial injection to help them avert that ban, suddenly find themselves as having the moral authority to prescribe solutions to the challenges facing our football is unfortunate.
That the same SRC didn’t even raise a red flag when the old ZIFA leaders, under Cuthbert Dube were ignoring repeated FIFA warnings culminating in our suspension from the World Cup qualifiers, shows that this Commission isn’t driven by national, but personal interests.
Dube and his cronies never published even one audited financial statement, but the likes of Joseph Muchechetere were prepared to overlook all that, for one reason or another, until it all exploded in our face with our expulsion from the World Cup qualifiers and a ZIFA debt that ballooned to more than $7 million in just five years.
That the SRC letter to threaten ZIFA came just three days after its chairman Edward Siwela praised the association’s leadership for doing a good job goes to show that those who say the Commission is being driven by a political agenda have a case.
The time has probably come for Sports Minister Kazembe Kazembe to whip this Sports Commission into line because it is not, and has never, served national interest, but narrow personal interests.
Maybe the Minister’s first call should be to ask where all the cash which the SRC have been collecting, which is generated from PSL matches, has gone to — has it been banked or it has found its way into the black market for the benefit of the SRC leaders?
That will be a good starting point.
Because if we have an SRC that doesn’t even know that one of us, Tendai Mtawarira, has become the first Springbok prop to play 100 Test matches, by saluting him with a simple message to congratulate him for his heroics, then it’s not worth being a part of our sport. This SRC should not be allowed to put the country’s continued participation in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers at risk, just to massage their narrow personal interests or cheap political gains, because it has already shown it doesn’t operate for the interests of the country.
It never did when we were being expelled from the 2018 World Cup, dining with those ZIFA leaders who caused that embarrassment, it never did when Mtawarira was being celebrated around the world last Saturday, for clocking a 100 Test caps and it’s not doing so now with its misdirected threats to ZIFA.