By Etiwel Mutero | I remember in the early 1980s as I grew up I became aware of a sport called football. We used to play plastic balls within our village. All young boys will gather at a village central location and chase the plastic balls, even during hot unfavourable whether conditions.
We graduated our village level plastic balls soccer at school when had a feel of a real and bigger soccer ball. Every young boy wanted to be selected into team A or B of the school’s team. It was an honour to wear the School’s soccer jersey and participating in the school’s soccer team came with rewards of drinking Mazoe Orange Crush with a half bread quoted with Stock Margarine whenever there were inter schools football competitions.
One day during a weekend I visited my uncle ,that is , brother to my father.On this day my uncle was enjoying listening to a football match commentary coming from his supersonic radio. It was a match between Dynamos and Highlanders.I later discovered that the majority of Shona people supported Dynamos while my Malumes the Ndebeles were always behind Highlanders.
I found out that football seemed to be the most loved sport in Zimbabwe if not in the world.I also found that football instill patriotism especially when national teams plays with another nation. Citizens forget anything to do with their economic challenges such as unemployment, low salaries wages, political or tribal differences .I have seen on several occasions Zimbabweans singing “yava nyama yekugocha…yowerere hehaheee bayawabaya!!!!” “Go warriors ….Score warriors Score score warriors woyee…!!!!”
Zimbabwean national teams, male and female have participated in a number of football soccer tournaments such as Cosafa ,CAF and World Cup football campaigns.We have won some games and lost a lot but Zimbabweans’ support for their national teams did not waver.We remain committed to support whatever is Zimbabwean, a win or a loss we continue to support our Warriors and our Mighty Warriors.
About two or three years ago we read in the press that our soccer stadiums have been inspected and have been found not fit to host international games.We were told that Zimbabwe has been given a due date to upgrade its own soccer stadiums or the stadiums will be condemned and Zimbabwe will never host any international soccer game within its borders.
We read in the press that Zimbabwe has pledged it’s commitment to adhere to the CAF deadline .We were told there is a company which has been given a tender to upgrade the National Stadium to the standard wanted by CAF. Then Covid came ,all soccer activities were suspended.We thought the government will take advantage of the Covid induced football competitions break to improve our football pitches but this was not the case.The Ministry of Youth and Sports stopped to give any updates on the upgrades of National Sports Stadium.The last update was an incident Kirsty Coventry had been accused of failing to maintain soccer stadiums doted throughout the country.Her ministry refuted the claims that her Ministry owns soccer stadiums in the country.The Ministry admitted that it was given the National Sports Stadium just recently and that it was working hard to make sure it is upgraded to the CAF standards.
The Ministry of Youth and Sports failed to upgrade the National Sports Stadiums to CAF standards within the stipulated time and Zimbabwe was barred from hosting any international soccer game within its borders .That means Zimbabwe was to host home games away from home.The arrangement was going to be very embarrassing to Zimbabwe.
How much was it going to cost us to develop and improve National Sports Stadium, Barberfields Stadium or Ascot Stadium to CAF standard.Is it so expensive that we failed to have a single CAF approved stadium? Whose fault was it that CAF ended up forbidding us from hosting any international soccer game within our borders? Who is a failure here? Shall we condemn the Minister of Youth and Sports Kirsty Coventry or it’s the SRC as led by Mlotshwa or shall we lay all the blame to Felton Kamambo and his ZIFA board.Who is to blame?
Guys somebody has to shoulder the blame here .The genesis of the soccer challenges which we are facing today started when all our soccer stadiums were condemned by CAF yet we have numerous boards in the country which claims to have the interest of the game at heart yet our soccer stadiums have been condemned .Is Zimbabwe so poor to the extent that it fails to have a single CAF approved soccer stadium ?Can we blame poverty or poor soccer administration for the soccer predicament which we find ourselves in?
I used to watch Kirsty Coventry swimming on flying the Zimbabwean flag high on TV .She used to be my hero. When President Mnangagwa appointed her to lead the Sports Ministry I said yes she is qualified to lead that Ministry.However , as we approach the end of her five year tenure ,I am failing to count her achievements so far because it was during her tenure that Zimbabwean Stadiums have been condemned by CAF and it is during her tenure that ZIFA was suspended by FIFA.I doubt if she is still my sports hero.
As all soccer loving Zimbabweans were still pondering on how the Ministry of Youth and Sports was to solve the soccer stadium crises… boom… the SRC announced the suspension of the ZIFA Board. Mlotshwa announced that they knew that FIFA will suspend ZIFA because FIFA rules doesn’t allow government interference in football matters.
Instead of working on the condemned soccer stadiums Mlotshwa was putting his efforts on politics.He was looking for a fight with Kamambo and FIFA.I have already pointed out above that Zimbabwe was going to be embarrassed because it had to fly out of the country to play home games away from home.Maybe we were to go and play our home games in SA which had better soccer stadiums in the region.Quite embarrassing isn’t it .I am made to believe Mlotshwa sought to cover up the embarrassment by pulling out the Country from international games.
Forget about corruption and money embezzlement noises at ZIFA .Corruption has always been there at ZIFA since the time of Leo Mugabe ,Phillip Chiyangwa,Rushwaya etcetera, we have read and heard about the corruption at ZIFA but the SRC never interfered with the soccer issues during those times why now?
It’s not like I am condoning corruption but I am saying if the government agreed to FIFA rules why break those rules now disadvantaging our young men and women ruining their professions.
We must learn to separate politics and soccer.The FIFA president recently before the biggining of the Qatar FIFA World Cup emphasized the same. We must separate football issues from political issues.Football issues including its problems must be solved by football associations themselves and not by the government.ZIFA has its board ,councillors ,Secretariat and on top of the ZIFA Board there is FIFA .All these structures were supposed to deal with Kamambo if he was indeed misusing ZiFA funds and government was not supposed to interfer with ZIFA Issues.
I got the shock of my life recently to read in the news that Mlotshwa is saying he is not in any hurry to have the FIFA suspension on Zimbabwe lifted.Yes he is not in a hurry because soccer is not his business, he doesnt have a son or a daughter who is a professional footballer, he is old such that he is thinking of retirement ( if he is not already retired) .He doesn’t care for our young men and women’s professions harmed by this FIFA suspension.His utterances should be condemned by all progressive soccer loving citizens. How can Mlotshwa utter such words when the country is moaning the death of the worlds beautiful game in the country.Is Mlotshwa enjoying this? How can Mlotshwa confine Zimbabwean soccer teams within the boarders of Zimbabwe and barr our warriors and mighty warriors from international soccer tournaments such as Cosafa, CAF and FIFA competitions? Does Mlotshwa think that Zimbabweans’ are enjoying what he is doing? Whose interests is he chasing?
Mlotshwa is quoted as saying Zimbabwe will apply for the uplifting of FIFA suspension when he is sure that the reforms which they are doing are through.The nation is left wondering what Mlotshwa means when he talks of reforms.Which reforms is he referring to which excludes upgrading or building new standard stadiums like we saw South Africa doing in 2010? What are the reforms which Mlotshwa is referring to which excludes developing the soccer game from grassroots like funding soccer academies, scouting for talents from schools including from rural schools, such as places like Binga or Gokwe and giving scholarships to talented boys and girls to study at well equipped schools or academies so that their talents are developed from their young age to adulthood- the soccer junior policy.
Is anyone aware of the reforms echoed by Mlotshwa or the reforms are all about their politics with the Kamambo Board?
Mlotshwa must lay his parroted reform clear to the nation with clear timelines so that everyone knows if he is achieving his so called reforms goals.If he is failing to implement his reforms then he must be asked to step aside together with his useless board.
If Zimbabweans today to choose between Mlotshwa’s SRC team and the reinstatement of the Kamambo Board they will chose the later. Nobody likes what Mlotshwa and his SRC gang is doing to our Zimbabwe Soccer.We want to see our soccer national teams back into action.
Taneta isu we are fed up.
Etiwel Mutero is a political analyst