By Petros Kausiyo
ZIFA are relishing the better times that lie ahead for their development projects following recent revelations by FIFA that the world football governing chiefs have substantially increased their investment into member associations through the FIFA Forward programme.
FIFA recently demonstrated their willingness to see the growth of the game across the globe by raising their financial injection into the development project of various associations through the Forward programme from which countries such as Zimbabwe will get over $1.25 million annually.
In a statement on their website, FIFA announced the news of the increased investment into the game, a move that has been gladly welcomed by ZIFA finance director Philemon Machana.
FIFA also revealed that they were helping underprivileged associations with funding to enable their senior and youth national teams to travel for international assignments, which Machana said was key in enabling their teams to take part in competitions and friendly matches.
“We are significantly increasing our financial support for member associations and football development to 5 million USD per four-year cycle for each member association from 1.6 million USD per cycle.
“This means each association has access to 750,000 US dollars per year for football projects such as pitches, competitions and women’s football.
“And every association also receives up to 500,000 US dollars per year for running costs in areas including administration and governance.
The Zurich-based body also announced an increase in the grants to confederations such as CAF who will now get $40 million per four-year cycle and $10 million annually.
“Confederations now receive 40 million US dollars per four-year cycle for football development, up from 22 million US dollars.
“We are providing extra help to member associations that need it, from football equipment and intern-ship programmes to up to 1 million US dollars to cover travel costs so that women’s and youth teams can compete in international competitions.
“And we will give regional associations (such as COSAFA) up to 1 million dollars per year to reimburse the cost of organising regional youth competitions for young women and men.
“We aim to improve the impact and efficiency of our investment in development, achieving better and more sustainable results so that football can thrive everywhere.
“We are bringing together all of our football project support into one tailor-made contract of agreed objectives and a development plan to meet the specific needs and challenges of each association”. FIFA also indicated that they would assist in building the capacities of their member associations.
Machana, in paying tribute to FIFA for their initiative, also revealed that ZIFA had begun accessing the world body’s support owing to “the good standing that we have with FIFA”.
The ZIFA finance guru said although they still had a problem with the association’s debt legacy, with some creditors being of the belief that FIFA funds are meant to clear the huge debts, he was happy with the way the FIFA Forward programme had been structured.
“They (FIFA) insist that the money should be for specific projects and the release of the funds is based on a contact whose proposal must be approved by congress.
“We applied but we had to wait for the AGM which AGM took place in February and our proposal was adopted and we are now set to go,” Machana said.
Machana also said ZIFA would now be able to pay off outstanding bonuses and appearance fees for the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors following the release of funds from FIFA.
“We are really grateful for the FIFA funds and their realisation that it’s difficult to travel in Africa and the travel grant is meant to ameliorate that and it has enabled us to enter the national teams for competitions.
“FIFA stand for Fair Play and they are trying to give equal opportunities and enhance the development of talent across the globe . . . the are saying if there is a Lionel Messi in Africa they must help to develop him and with this initiative I can say African countries will be even more competitive in a few years’ time.
“There are many Mohamed Salahs across Africa but our economises do not allow us to fish them on a bigger scale but with this help from FIFA that will be enhanced,” Machana said.
“We are also very grateful to the Warriors coach, team manager and players for their patience and we are now going to pay them for the friendlies they played in Lesotho, Namibia and the Four-nation in Zambia when they get into camp for the COSAFA.
“We would like to express the same gratitude to the Mighty Warriors coach and her players who were very patient and resisted being used by some people who had personal agendas and we have since paid them off for the Namibia games.
“Before they play Zambia we will also clear everything that was outstanding from the COSAFA tournament,” Machana said.
Machana maintained that ZIFA would not have been accessing any funds from FIFA if the association had not submitted audited accounts to the world body.
That assertion also quashes claims by some hawks who had been peddling the narrative that FIFA had shut the door on ZIFA. The social media hawks, led by Harare City official Hope Chizuzu, have been trying to paint a gloomy picture of the situation and even claimed that there is leadership vacuum at the association.
But FIFA, as they have always done, use their own monitoring mechanisms on their members, and have since released more funds to ZIFA in a show of recognition of the legitimacy of the Philip Chiyangwa leadership.