‘Zifa Must Divert Funds From Dormant Leagues’

Former ZIFA board member, Francis Zimunya, says the association should divert the funds they allocated into non-existent Division Three and Four leagues.

Those funds, he said, should now be channeled towards the resumption of the domestic Premiership.

A storm is brewing in domestic football, after the Government gave ZIFA the greenlight to restart football activities, with the association, and their affiliates, funding the first phase of the return of the national sport.

The arrangement is that the PSL have to organise a mini-league, under a secure bio-bubble environment, where the players and officials will be isolated during the tourney.

“ZIFA is committed to leading the safe return of football by funding the testing of players and paying referees’ fees,” the association said in a statement this week.

“We are still engaging Government on how other cost centres can be funded to ensure that the return of football happens flawlessly.

“We are optimistic that Government and other stakeholders will collaborate with us to allow the safe return of football.

“We are hoping that teams can return to training by the 26th of October 2020 if all engagements go on smoothly.”

In August, ZIFA also revealed that they had diverted the US$66 000, which they had earmaked for the PSL from the US$500 000 expected from FIFA in January next year, to the lower leagues.

“The Premier Soccer League will receive its US$100 000 share. Every other affiliate received their allocation in a once-off payment and we resolved to do the same for the Premier Soccer League,” the association said.

“The other US$ 66 000 that had been earmarked for the top-flight in the second tranche will now be channelled towards lower leagues referees’ fees when competitions resume.

“In retrospect, we realised that we had overlooked these officials while clubs in the lower leagues also suffered financial distress, if not worse than those in the top-flight.”

Earlier this month, Youth Sport, Recreation and Arts Minister, Kirsty Coventry, told Senate that Government “will ask FIFA to just confirm whether or not these monies were sent and for what use that money was sent for to ZIFA.

“As far as I am aware, there was money sent by FIFA to ZIFA in order to resume the game of football and help in terms of testing players.”

Yesterday, Zimunya said ZIFA should revisit the way they allocated the US$1.8 million they received from FIFA and CAF, for Covid-19 relief, with emphasis being placed on helping the PSL resume their programmes next month.

The ZIFA Division Three and Four leagues, which were allocated funding under that bailout, have been non-existent for over a decade.

ZIFA can argue that they directed funds towards those leagues, with the aim of reviving them next year.

But, given that the PSL resumption is key, in ensuring that the game returns, Zimunya feels the top-flight league should be the focus of attention.

Among the disbursements, which the association set aside, was US$66 000 for referees in Division Three and Division Four leagues, which have been dormant for the past decade.

“The Division Three and Four leagues you are talking about have long been neglected,” Zimunya said.

“They haven’t been functional, for a number of years, I think, since the days of (former ZIFA boss) Cuthbert Dube.

“In the past, when we were still in the office, we used to start from Division Five, which was the Area Zone, teams got promoted into Division Four and then Division Three and then Division Two and One which are still in existence.”

The Division Three and Four Leagues used to be funded by ZIFA under the development grants they received from FIFA.

They formed part of the development ladder from the grassroots to professional football.

The leagues were administered under the provincial structures.

A Harare provincial official yesterday confirmed the Division Three and Four Leagues have since disappeared from the radar because of lack of funding.

“We were supposed to have the Division Three and Four leagues but those leagues are no longer in existence because of financial challenges,” he said.

Football has been affected in a big way by the lack of funding so the clubs that used to play in those Divisions were disbanded some years back.

“There hasn’t been any football taking place at that level.

“As far as I know, the Division Three and Four leagues were last active, I think, a decade ago.

“The structures and the clubs collapsed and we are now left with area zones, but there is no order down there.

“Football is just played haphazardly and in other places, the area zones are non-existent.”

ZIFA have indicated they can only fund Covid-19 testing, and the payment of PSL referees, and are appealing to Government, and other stakeholders, to chip in.

The association have said they need additional funding for accommodation, transport, prize money, ground hire and other cost centres. Government, through the Sports and Recreation Commission, have made it clear that ZIFA and their affiliates will take care of the costs for the resumption of football.

The Sports Commission director-general, Prince Mupazviriho, yesterday told The Herald the association were still to approach his office.

“We haven’t received any communication from ZIFA as yet but what we do know is that they applied to the Government recently to resume football activities in the country and their request was granted.

“The resumption of football activities was approved on the basis of the application.

“So, the ball is back in ZIFA’s court and, if they have faced any other challenges, we wait to hear from them,” said Mupazviriho.

Meanwhile, ZIFA have confirmed the appointment of Harare City chief executive, Tafadzwa Alleta Basera, as the team manager of the Mighty Warriors.

“The appointment is with immediate effect, and she will work with the association on an ad-hoc basis. She replaces Charity Mudzviti,” the association said in a statement.

“Basera will be responsible for logistical and welfare issues of the Mighty Warriors and will work closely with the general manager of all national teams, Wellington Mpandare.”

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