Main News Opinion & Columnist

Editorial Comment: Amid all the squabbles, football is biggest loser

IT’S has been another miserable week for everyone who loves our football, with the national game dominating the back pages of the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

Day after day, the headlines being generated from the sport have been grim reading as ugly boardroom battles continue to take centre stage. Even an impressive victory by FC Platinum in their CAF Champions League preliminary round, first leg tie, against Costa do Sol of Mozambique last Saturday, found itself being overshadowed by the madness which has been coming out of the boardrooms.

Norman Mapeza celebrated his return to the Zvishavane miners by guiding them to a fine win over the Mozambican champions in Maputo, giving them the edge in their two-legged battle. The second leg is set for the National Sports Stadium this afternoon.

In another country, FC Platinum’s winning start to their CAF Champions League campaign in their first competitive game in about 10 months, and just four days after they rehired Mapeza, would have been the football story of the week.

Tanzanian forward Elias Maguri’s stunning last-gasp winner for the Zvishavane side when his instinctive long-range effort found its way home would have been the dominant story of the week. Some fans who had the privilege of watching that stunning effort have been arguing that ZIFA should consider forwarding the video to FIFA for it to be considered in the next Puskas Award for the best goals scored around the world.

Advertisement

Of course, we all know that is not likely to happen because no one, it appears, among those we have tasked with leading our national game, really cares about that right now.

All the focus and energy, it appears, is now dedicated towards the nasty boardroom wars which have seen the ZIFA board engaging in an all-out battle with the Sports and Recreation Commission.

Triggered by the SRC board’s decision to suspended ZIFA chief executive, Joseph Mamutse, to pave way into investigations over a number of issues the sports regulator was not happy with, the two sporting organisations have been fighting a no-holds-barred battle.

On Thursday, the conflict spilled into the Administrative Court after ZIFA took their case there, fighting for the nullification of Mamutse’s suspension and everything appears to point to a drawn-out conflict.

Now, this week, amid all this mayhem, we were told by the association that the highly-anticipated return to competitive football, for our top-flight league, will not happen this year. The clubs, who have been training since they conducted their Covid-19 tests a few weeks ago, hoping to have some action this year, now have to deal with the reality that they were being sold a dummy all along.

They were expecting to play in a proposed mini-league tournament, which would be held under a secure bio-bubble environment after they were told by authorities that such a tourney would be used as the first step towards the return of competitive football in this country.

This week, the ZIFA leaders disowned the tournament, saying that it was never their baby, and they were only invited by the Sports and Recreation Commission to just provide their seal of approval.

“Needless to say that ZIFA is daily lambasted on this decision yet this was an SRC concept given to the Ministry. ZIFA was only invited to implement,’’ the association said in their statement.

“ZIFA was only invited to implement. At that time ZIFA requested that the SRC fund the concept which we found elitist and expensive, ZIFA and PSL were asked to provide a budget and asked that they also contribute to which ZIFA have since done its bit through funding for Covid-19 tests.

“ZIFA is in possession of its own all-inclusive write up to the SRC for resumption of football, which did not include the bubble and also the one from the SRC which had the bubble.’’

Advertisement

With no prospects of any domestic competitive football this year, it means that the Warriors will be ill-equipped, when they plunge into the CHAN finals, in Cameroon next month. It’s like we are just sending a team to fulfil the assignments, without any prospects for it to try and go for glory, which defeats the whole purpose of playing in a tournament.

We have been qualifying for just about every CHAN finals since this tournament, which is reserved for players plying their trade in their home countries, was introduced.

Therefore, going there isn’t anything to boast about, what we want, as a proud football-playing country, is to see our team competing for the trophy because we believe we have the capacity to do that.

After all, we reached the semi-finals of the same tournament at the 2014 CHAN finals in South Africa, only to lose to eventual winners, Libya, in a penalty shoot-out.

The match had ended goalless.

Along the way, we had stunned tournament favourites, Mali, 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

Our coach, Zdravko Logarusic, who continues to charm the nation with his optimism and bravery, has been trying to send the message that we can still do very well, even without the preparations that we should have been having, for such a major tournament. However, it’s clear that Loga must be wondering why his fellow expatriate coach, Lalchand Rajput, who is in charge of the national cricket side, should be getting all the support from his employers ahead of international commitments while he continues to get a raw deal?

Already, the Zimbabwe Cricket authorities have announced that their domestic season will be played in a secure bio-bubble environment, to help their coach prepare for the big assignments coming early next year.

Today and tomorrow, their women cricket teams will be playing in two major finals, which shows progress, while no one has been talking about when our women football teams will return to action, even though this sector specifically received US$500 000 from FIFA.

HERALD

Advertisement