EDITORIAL COMMENT: ‘Sandton Project’ was not a product of our imaginationDr Philip Chiyangwa

WHEN we exposed what we termed “The Sandton Project”, a programme designed to cripple the operations of ZIFA by a group led by people who believe no one else, but themselves should be in charge of domestic football, critics dismissed it as a product of our imagination.

Of course, we knew we stood on firm ground because our authoritative sources had seen some of our football leaders being airlifted to Sandton, South Africa, where they hatched this project to try and cripple the smooth administration of our national game.

On Thursday, our report was confirmed when the very same people we said were behind the “Sandton Project” met at a five-star hotel in Harare where they discussed a number of things, including their favourite subject — that football in this country was in the hands of the wrong leadership.

They also claimed that Philip Chiyangwa and his leadership were hanging on to power illegally, suggesting that their mandate had ended last month, and they put together a committee, made up of familiar faces, to try and coerce the Sports and Recreation to act.

Of course, it’s not our business to say this or that person should not run Zimbabwean football, or be involved in the structures of the administration of our national game, because that is for the ZIFA Congress to decide and we only call for the best possible individuals to get those roles.

We are not blinded to the reality that there are things that Chiyangwa and his administrative team could have done better and the Mighty Warriors fiasco, which saw the senior national team players staging an industrial action over their unpaid dues and refusing to leave their camp until their demands were met, shows that the current leadership has shortcomings.

But, what we won’t support is a brazen attempt for a boardroom coup by people with a history of losing the battles to lead domestic football, to try and come into its administrative structures through the back door and feasting on whatever challenge the current administration has, to fuel their campaign to get into power.

Trevor Carelse-Juul, who stays in South Africa, is someone who has perfected the art of emerging on the scene every time when challenges affect the running of ZIFA, and an opportunity unveils itself for him to preach his gospel, all in the hope of landing the role of the presidency of the association.

This is the same man who tells the world that he cares for our football, and its welfare, yet he remains divorced from its trials and tribulations — as long as there isn’t an opening for him to try and become the ZIFA leader.

This is the same man who has tried, and failed, in the last ZIFA elections — defeated by Cuthbert Dube and Chiyangwa — in comprehensive fashion because the electorate has refused to be hoodwinked by his smooth-talking and suggestions he is the messiah, who only comes along when a window of hope for him to be the boss opens.

And he is the same man who, 25 years ago, was in this job as the ZIFA boss before leaving his post in very controversial circumstances when the Sports Commission were forced to intervene and, a quarter-of-a-century later, he is back to say that he is the best thing ever to happen to our football.

Admittedly, he has his strengths, but he should not be fooled to believe that everyone believes in his story and why he wants to make himself a career ZIFA leader, as if that is the only job that he can do in this game, needs some explanation.

When the Warriors were being expelled from the 2018 FIFA World Cup, because the previous ZIFA leaders had failed to pay just $68 000 which was owed to Brazilian coach Valinhos, despite repeated reminders by FIFA of the consequences of ignoring their warnings to settle this debt, Carelse-Juul was nowhere to be seen.

He chose to go into a shell when, if he really cared about our game, as the man who had lost to Dube for the ZIFA presidency, he could have showed us he really cares for our game by mobilising the international partners he claims he has in abundance to help ZIFA pay that debt to Valinhos.

Doing that would have portrayed him as a true friend of our game, someone which this sport can turn to in times of need, and that he, instead, chose to go into hiding when we were faced with the threat of expulsion from the World Cup, shows he isn’t really serious about what he wants to do in this game.

If Carelse-Juul and his group had enough money to hire a five-star venue for their meeting this week, one wonders why they didn’t use part of those resources to give the Mighty Warriors —if they are true leaders and true friends of this game — as bonuses and allowances?

And isn’t it tragic that the very people who feasted on ZIFA and led to its debt mounting to $7 million from just $500 000 in five years, and were culpable in our expulsion from the World Cup, like Jonathan Mashingaidze, are now the ones who are making all the noises to try and wrestle power from those who are in charge of the game?

We cannot allow these failed administrators to keep believing they are God’s gift for our game and, if they really love it, why don’t they invest all their financial resources into a junior development programme, the way Nigel Munyati is doing at Aces Youth Soccer Academy, rather than just fight for control of ZIFA?