The last two days have been quite hectic for Zimbabwe football with the country getting the spotlight of the globe’s biggest sporting discipline in the wake of a landmark visit by FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary-general Fatima Samba Diouf Samoura to our beautiful country.
The two most powerful people in the governance of world football flew into Harare on Thursday night and, after attending a glitzy bash hosted by ZIFA boss Philip Chiyangwa to celebrate his birthday and also his ascendancy to the COSAFA presidency, the duo met President Mugabe yesterday and Government officials.
Just seeing Infantino, a Swiss lawyer who also served as the secretary-general of UEFA, the richest football confederation in the world, enjoying himself, dancing to local music and mingling freely with guests at the Harare International Conference Centre on Thursday night, was very, very refreshing.
Especially against a background where the world has been fed lies by a hostile media that has converted itself into experts at bombarding it with fake news that we are a nation in ruins, where everything has either fallen apart or is in the process of falling apart, it felt good to see the most powerful man in world football enjoying himself in such a relaxed environment.
It was also refreshing to see a number of high-profile African football leaders, including South African Football Association boss Danny Jordaan, Nigerian Football Federation chief Amaju Melvin Pinnick and the man who is challenging Issa Hayatou for the presidency of the Confederation of African Football next month, Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar, gracing our country.
There is no doubt that ZIFA are trapped in a financial quagmire, which has seen the Association being weighed down by a $7 million debt that has suffocated their attempts to develop the game in the grassroots, which should be one of the key areas of every leadership that is handed the responsibility of administering our football.
We hope that, with the golden chance they have been given to interact with such high-profile FIFA leaders like Infantino and Samoura, a Senegalese who made history by becoming the first woman to become the FIFA secretary-general, our football leaders were able to find ways of sourcing help from the world football governing body to help them dissolve that huge debt.
The current ZIFA leaders, who inherited the crippling debt from the administrators whose mandate to lead our game was revoked in 2015, owes it to future generations to ensure they lay a firm foundation for the building of strong pillars which will ensure that our national game continues to flourish long after they have left the scene and handed the baton of leadership to others who come after them.
We have a lot of potential when it comes to football, to become a powerhouse on the continent, but successive generations of our promising stars have seen their dreams being shattered by questionable leaders who don’t provide the right environment, but also the required supporting apparatus to ensure we get the best out of our footballers.
While Chiyangwa has done commendably well in the short space of time he has been in charge of the game, especially against a wave of doubters who questioned his leadership skills and even his previous association with the game, we believe he still can do a lot more in terms of taking our national game from the intensive care unit.
He has our support in terms of charting a new course for domestic football, especially by engaging with critical partners who can help it emerge from its financial distress, and given his close connections with Infantino, as demonstrated at his birthday bash, we believe he can unlock a number of significant revenue streams for our game.
It’s therefore sad that we note that Hayatou, once again, has resorted to his primitive ways of trying to silence those who believe he isn’t the right man to keep leading African football, like Chiyangwa, with various threats of disciplining the ZIFA leader for daring to join the bandwagon that is challenging him.
Hayatou appears to have been badly stricken by power, after such a lengthy period as head of CAF, he believes he has become an untouchable monster who should be feared by everyone even when the organisation’s statutes provide for those who wish to challenge him to exercise their right and throw their names into the hat.
His latest threats to sanction Chiyangwa should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve and the days when he would bully us into silence are long gone by and, after all, we now have a new FIFA leadership — led by fresh-faced individuals — who can protect those who can be abused by people like Hayatou and his cronies.
If Hayatou feels he is such a very powerful man, as he was in the past, he should first try and sanction Pinnick, who clearly has come out guns blazing against the Cameroonian’s leadership on various international media forums, before he takes on Chiyangwa.
Of course, we know he won’t do that because Nigeria are a very powerful nation in African football.