Jefferson Ndhlovu Special Correspondent
ZIMBABWEAN football has been on an extended and indefinite hiatus defaultly caused by the marauding and deadly coronavirus pandemic.
This has been an uncomfortable break, especially for football players and other support staff in football whose livelihoods virtually depends on the smooth running of the beautiful game. Clubs that pay these players are reeling in pain. They are probably paying salaries without any return on investment. It’s a whole lot of crazy and disturbing scenarios.
Tagging along the football lull, we have experienced some boardroom dramas that have culminated in the suspension of the accounting officers at ZIFA and the Sports Commission, Joseph Mamutse and Prince Mupazviriho respectively.
While, the latter’s suspension has gone to slumber and we have not heard so much about it, possibly it’s being handled constructively and professionally. It is the former that is causing rumpus and grating in the football family.
My sorry and incompetent observations is contribution that leads to the ill-tempered brute and intrusiveness by the so-called all powerful Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) that has in its misinformed bullying behavior wants to now jump the yard stick and involve itself in Zimbabwean national matters. And we have a team of local football fathers who don’t see anything wrong with that.
There is a communique that is dated December 30, 2020, from FIFA to ZIFA, that has only surfaced to the public in the last couple days. And respectively, so maybe ZIFA has been under no obligation to share the contents of that letter. But somehow it has accidentally, deliberately or officially found its way to the public.
In that letter I took interest in the wording of one part in the note. And it reads: “Finally, we remain available to discuss with the relevant government authorities in Zimbabwe possible amendments to the Act to ensure that future decisions taken on the basis of such piece of legislation are based on objective and balanced criteria.
“We, therefore, kindly invite you to liaise with SRC to inquire whether a meeting could be organised in the coming months to exchange on the matter.”
The author of the quoted letter is Congolese FIFA Chief Member Associations Officer Véron Mosengo-Omba who was handpicked into that position by Gianni Infantino upon his ascendancy to the FIFA presidency by virtue of being former classmates. Am not in anyway saying the former is not qualified for the job.
Masego-Omba is in many ways telling the constitution makers in Zimbabwe, which is a sovereign state to amend the SRC Act to suit the likes of FIFA. Practically saying the SRC Act to be an Act of FIFA not an Act of the Republic of Zimbabwe. That is by far stretching its mandate way too far.
By its design wrong or right, the SRC Act was not brought into existence for football reasons. But sports as a whole and affects everyone that affiliates to it. The fact that football is a superior sport in Zimbabwe does not give it the exclusiveness or VIP latitude to micro manage the affairs of the Sports Commission and by extension inviting the ills of FIFA and wanna be a big boy attitude.
This FIFA that has so much been against the so-called government interference or what some called “Protecting Private Transnational Authority Against Public Intervention”, appears hypocritical on many fronts.
FIFA and its confederations are very stubborn to facts. One moment, they want to feast on the same table with governments because it suits FIFA. But suddenly, they place needles and pins on the same platform when it does not suit them.
World over, should a member association show interest in hosting a major footballing tournament like the World Cup, which FIFA surreptitiously chooses to call being organized by FIFA and hosted by a particular country, FIFA will not even entertain that application in the absence of the government guarantee that they will bankroll the hosting and development of the facilities to host that tournament.
The Government takes money from taxpayers to fund those football expensive projects. Should then taxpayers want to question what’s going on with their had earned money through the proxy called government, FIFA raises the red flag threatening expunging the member association. That’s Mafia style!
In all that, what FIFA does is to inspect the facilities to meet their own standards at the expense of the host nations. Sometimes even canceling the hosting right in bully like manner without considering the investment losses.
FIFA will not accept to endorse an association’s constitution if at all it gets changed or amended until the host government through a proxy like in Zimbabwe called the Sports Commission. So why then demand these morning government interference and late afternoon the story changes? Logic then questions.
FIFA can only listen one sidedly. That is when it wants its way not the other way. Otherwise, you risk the wrath of being banned.
FIFA under its former boss Sepp Blatter realised how moneyed the football game was slowly becoming worldwide. And they needed to ring fence their cult organization by introducing these clandestine, protective and sometimes fraudulent activities clauses to thwart being questioned.
And this was the era of disgraced former FIFA president Blatter together with dodgy Issa Hayatous of this continent who almost chiefdomised their stay at helm.
These clauses by FIFA that stopped the so called “government interference” in many ways gave birth to dodgy board members to run football associations, especially in the Third World countries and Third World Confederations. They almost created lifetime leaders.
Prior to 1988, these stealth and insulated arrangements, FIFA respected the respective governments. But today even the representative of a nation, the president is absolutely scared of saying anything against the ills in football.
Football as we know it, in third world countries is the biggest sport. And arguably the only one that bridges many social divides by uniting many, be it in civil war, political tensions, religious activities, academic name. They all come together and throw away differences to unite for football. FIFA knows the emotive part of this arrangement.
Prior to these stealth and insulated arrangements, FAs, especially in Africa, respected the respective governments. Simply put, they worked in partnership and support was in abundance. But today even the representative of a people, the president is absolutely scared of saying against the ills in football. Worrying the bully bulldog call FIFA will show its ugly and tainted teeth.
Football as we know it, in Third World countries is the biggest sport. And arguably the only one that bridges many social divides by uniting many, be it in civil war, political tensions, religious activities and academics, you name it. They all come together and throw away differences to unite for football.
FIFA knows that emotive part to this arrangement and (it) uses that emotion card to protect its own sometimes useless and corrupt elected leaders. And many of them are bankrupt of how to grow and develop football.
And we get the height of an insult from the Congolese born Mosengo-Omba that a sovereign state as Zimbabwe must invite him or FIFA to draft an amendment to the SRC Act and be debated on by parliamentarians of Zimbabwe. Clearly this is preposterous and behavior describable as colonial absentee landlord.
This is what Felton Kamambo and his ZIFA cowards are exposing the country to. They are behaving like they are not Zimbabweans at all. Totally rude and unpatriotic. Football has been there before them and it will be there after them. Should they then receive and acknowledge a letter that insults their own country and have the audacity to forward it to the Sports Commission and indirectly to the Government?
And they unashamedly sit and wait for a response from the Sports Commission. How low can people stoop so low? It is embarrassing and condescending for Kamambo and his erstwhile colleagues.
Mamutse’s suspension by the Sports Commission could have easily been handled internally and superficially.
But the ZIFA crooked board members think any criticism against them is the threat to their cookie jar. And such need to protect it. The best defense is the cowardly action of running to the animal sanctuary called FIFA.
Maybe it’s about time to absorb the wrath of FIFA so that the country can start rebuilding our football without the bottlenecks of threat from FIFA.
* Jefferson Ndhlovu is a Zimbabwean who is based in Johannesburg, South Africa, who specialises in writing about African football and wrote this article in his own personal capacity