Fredrick Moyo/ Emmanuel Chitsika
The current on goings at Number 53 Livingstone Avenue in Harare, where soccer-governing board Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) was disbanded by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) portrays a new picture on the local football landscape as questions are raised over the future of the beautiful game.
The relieving of duties for the Felton Kamambo-led board over alleged incompetence coupled with a poor faring at the just-ended 2022 World Cup qualifiers to be hosted by Qatar in the Middle East where the ‘Warriors’ managed only two draws out of six games left the soccer fraternity wondering about the future of the sport.
The Zimbabwean football scene has been haunted by several cases of maladministration as spelt out in the dismissal letter by the SRC.
“The Sport and Recreation Commission (SRC) hereby informs the public that upon extensive consultation and further deliberations on matters relating to the governance and management of football in Zimbabwe, the SRC board has with immediate effect suspended the Zifa board in accordance with the Sports and Recreation Act.
“This decision has been considered following several incidences of gross incompetence on the part of Zifa, such conduct and or omissions being contrary to the national interest, as provided for in terms of section 30 (i) (c) of the SRC Act,” read part of the letter.
The major question now is whether the decision to dismiss the ‘incompetent’ board would bring sanity to the football governing board that has let down the nation on a number of occasions, thereby bringing agony, anguish and despair among soccer-loving fans.
Speaking to TellZim News, yester-year soccer legend Alois Bunjira said the SRC made the decision while bearing in mind the fact that the 2022 AFCON games are just around the corner and they have plans in place to that effect of preparations.
“When the SRC suspended Zifa, they said they will put together an interim committee that will take over the affairs of Zifa. It is that interim committee that will take over preparations for the continental soccer showpiece.
“After all, Zifa never prepared. The team would be called into camp a week before they leave for the tournament. The tournament is in January. I guess there is still plenty of time, if we are to go by the usual Zifa preparations,” said Bunjira.
On the issue of Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) hinting on not taking action against the decision by SRC, Bunjira says Fifa could have sensed SRC’s intention to normalise the situation in the country.
“Fifa does not support government interference in football but Fifa actually work with governments over a lot of football issues. That is why a country needs government guarantees in order to host an international tournament.
“With regards to the Zimbabwean situation, of Fifa agreeing with SRC, a normalisation committee is set up until elections are held,” said Bunjira.
On why the SRC was not pro-active and only acted now, he said SRC’s worry is in not about producing results, but only offering advice.
“SRC does not suspend an association for poor results. It is none of their business but they can be concerned .They can only offer support and advice.
“I am sure they did not act because of poor results but because of other reasons that they feel are allowed to act upon, in terms of the sports laws of the country. They are better positioned to explain it better.
“I cannot really measure how incompetent they were. They were not competent at all. All I know is that football is now almost dead in the country,” said Bunjira.
He also said the decision by referees not to attend soccer matches was not supposed to happen, and someone will be accountable and somehow ill behaved.
“The boycott was never supposed to happen. I am sure someone somewhere will be answerable. But the suspension of a Zifa board should not affect domestic football and its development at all and someone was being mischievous,” said Bunjira.
Football fanatic Phillip Shumba said the timing of the SRC might affect the preparations which are around the corner but it came at the right moment as they stopped the rotten administration in football.
“Indeed the Afcon games are just around the corner and this is the biggest football extravaganza in Africa. This is the barometer used in Africa to ascertain our seriousness as an African state and to showcase what we offer as a nation in terms of football. Inevitably everyone becomes interested in such an event politicians included since the pride of the nation is at stake.
“The SRC therefore had to intervene to avoid a potential embarrassing episode for our country. Yes the timing of the SRC intervention might be gleaned at as “Ill advised but I believe that it is a necessary evil meant to stop the rot in our football administration,” said Shumba.
He also added that the move was a necessity and the commotion in not going to last for a long time, as the SRC have the powers to assign an interim committee and take care of the Zifa preparation.
“I believe that the suspension of the Zifa board is a necessary move meant to cleanse our football which desperately need such measures and in my view the disruption is going to be temporary in nature.
“The SRC has the power to appoint an interim committee to run the country’s football affairs and in my further view the process is already ongoing behind the scenes and sooner an interim committee is likely to take over the reins at Zifa. Once that is done preparations for the Afcon tournament may commence in earnest,” added Shumba.
On allegations of Fifa supporting SRC, Shumba said Fifa did not support SRC but just cleared the air as SRC acted under the statutes of the law, adding that Fifa does not support corruption.
“Fifa has not supported the SRC, what Fifa has just done is to clarify an area which has caused some confusion before the clarity. Fifa simply restated that The SRC acted within the confines of our domestic laws hence Fifa won’t rush to press the panic button and suspend Zimbabwe from football activities.
“Fifa does not condone criminality hence it is likely to adopt a cautious approach and only take action if the SRC over steps into unchartered territory. At the moment Fifa’s view seems to imply that the Zifa board has a case to answer hence the suspension of the board in terms of a valid internal law (The SRC Act).
“The implications of such a stance is that zifa must allow the conduct of its board members to be subjected to scrutiny so that those who might have committed criminal offences are brought to book. However at the same time the SRC should not clandestinely use this as a way to bulldoze into football. Football is apolitical and any political interference in football matters should never be condoned,” said Shumba.
He also added that SRC is a professional board and responded professionally to the rot board that kept a blind eye and receive many warnings.
“SRC has deliberately been adopting a cautionary approach in this whole saga? Like what I said earlier the SRC is a professional board led by professional people who are conversant with the laws of the country. Therefore this board was given a very long rope they were given an opportunity to rectify the rot but rather than taking corrective action the board turned a blind eye to the numerous warning and became even more arrogant. For instance the alleged abuse of female referees was reported in 2020 but to date nothing has been done to bring the culprits to book.
“The poor performance by the national team in the world cup qualifiers must have prompted the SRC to take action which was long overdue. The decline in our Fifa rankings might also have precipitated the eventual action,” Shumba added.
Shumba also said that he cannot judge the competency or incompetency of Zifa although there are other things to look at and the writings were all over Zifa walls.
He also said the action by the referees was self-centred as many teams have spent a lot of money preparing for the games.
“That in my view was a selfish ill-advised decision. Look, teams had already travelled from as far as Harare to Triangle, incurred camping expenses among others only for one man to decide to pull off the match officials.
“That move had a negative impact on the imagine of the game, it impacted negatively on sponsors who may now contemplate withdrawing their sponsorship packages. Image the impact that move had on the new entrant into football sponsorship Sakunda holding. The move no doubt should have dismayed a lot of corporate sponsors,” said Shumba.
Right now the country has to wait for four years to try their luck to dance with the biggest football teams in the World.
Zimbabwe crushed out of the World Cup Qualifiers without a single win, and they only managed to collect two points from six games played