SO the fifth African Cup of Nations finals, since our last dance with the biggest football festival on the continent, gets underway in Equatorial Guinea today, with our Warriors joining their fans as armchair viewers, and it’s all very normal for us. It’s quite normal for us that Knowledge Musona, who not so long ago was being toasted as the next best thing for our football since Peter Ndlovu, will watch from a distance in freezing Belgium, having never played at this tournament, even though he will now be turning 25 this year.
And it’s normal for us that a 34-year-old Kolo Toure, who played against Dynamos in an African Champions League tie here at the National Sports Stadium 16 years ago, which the Ivorians lost 1-2, can grace the Nations Cup finals for the umpteenth time and Musona, who was a nine-year-old back then, cannot.
It’s very normal for us that Khama Billiat hasn’t played at the Nations Cup finals, and will miss this latest showcase again, and that he turns 25 this year without even playing at the tournament where African stars showcase their skills, is not an issue that bothers us at all.
This is the same Khama who, only three ago, was earning the praises of former Manchester United and England centreback, Rio Ferdinand, after the diminutive Zimbabwean forward had run rings around the Red Devils defence in an off-season friendly tie in Cape Town.
“If they are really youngsters, they have quite a few of really good players,” Ferdinand said after the game ended 1-1.
“Their two centre halves (Nazeer Allie and Matthew Booth) but their number 11 (Billiat) is their most exciting player for me. He is good when in position, good ball control and a can use his speed really well, overall an exciting player.”
Three years later, that exciting player, good when in position, good ball control and who can use his speed really well, is yet to grace the Nations Cup finals, even though two tournaments have now been held since the last time that Khama and Ferdinand collided.
And, for the football people of this country, it’s very normal.
Only a fool will blame Khama because, when he carried that responsibility to try and drag his country to the Promised Land of the Nations Cup finals, he did so with aplomb, didn’t he, on that unforgettable afternoon, when his dancing feet proved too much for the Angolans, and he was the heart and soul of our 3-1 win in the first leg of the final qualifier for the 2013 Nations Cup finals?
Then, those who have the power to control the game, ruined it all for him, and his teammates, sending them on the same plane full of supporters, including some who appeared to be in the race to find out who was the biggest beer drinker among themselves on that flight to Angola, and the focus of the boys was compromised by a leadership that had no clue whatsoever about how to prepare for such a big game.
Of course, we lost that game, 0-2, our fate sealed in the first 10 minutes of the big showdown, and all that Khama could do was to shed tears for his country, and needed the helping hand of the legendary Peter Ndlovu, for him to leave that stadium.
Only a fool will blame Musona because, whenever he has played for his country, he has done so with distinction and has always been among the leading goalscorers in the qualifiers but he wasn’t around, just like Khama, to provide the Midas Touch when we were elbowed out of the 2015 Nations Cup finals by Tanzania.
Even after ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze labeled him one of the anti-football people, tarnishing his image around the world, simply because the football boss wanted to fight his many wars that have taken our national game 100 years back, Musona kept scoring the goals for us, every time he appeared in the national team colours.
Our Golden Generation of Young Warriors, which used to dominate the Cosafa youth championships, and on whose shoulders an entire nation had built its trust that they will develop into Warriors who would represent us with distinction at the Nations Cup finals, has found itself easing into the senior national team at a time when the game is a minefield and success isn’t a priority.
They are led by an association that doesn’t care, whether they grace the Nations Cup finals or not, because to these people that is not their core business of administering our game, for their main thrust is to ensure that they fight boardroom wars, from the comfort of their offices and homes, against anyone they perceive is their enemy.
Because some of them don’t even have any romantic attachment to this game, to the extent that seeing them at a football stadium is as rare as hoping to see a snowfall in Harare in the middle of October, they have virtually nothing to lose and that the Warriors will not be at the football festival in Equatorial Guinea isn’t an issue at all.
From the comfort of their plush homes, they will probably spend the next three weeks watching Cartoon Network because they are comfortable dealing with characters that do not take them to account and what better way to do that than spend days, if now weeks, watching Tom and Jerry.
After all, at some point last year, they watched a bigger and better football show – the World Cup in Brazil – and if you have been to Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach and you have been to the Maracana, in an air-conditioned suite where ushers serve you all the drinks that you can ever imagine, what’s so special about a Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea?
When you have been to the Land of Pele, and enjoyed five-star company of the biggest names in world football and watched Neymar in action, in his backyard as thousands screamed every time he touched the ball, why should you lose sleep simply because Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona are not playing the Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea?
There are better things to worry about — the next ZIFA elections in 2018, they have to be won at all cost, the people who are going to vote in those elections must be put in the right positions from now, oh, by the way, the next World Cup finals in Russia is also in 2018, a trip to Moscow to taste genuine Russian vodka or a trip to Sochi where they built that beautiful Olympic city.
And, after all, the CAF Congress will be held soon in Equatorial Guinea, and so why should they worry about the Warriors not being there when they know, just as was the case in Brazil last year, they will fly to the Atlantic Ocean island, watch a game or two, stay in the best hotels there, get VIP treatment and come back home.
THE MINISTER AND THE CHALLENGES OUR GAME FACES
There was a lot of excitement last month when Sports Minister Andrew Langa made headlines in the national newspapers ordering ZIFA to either get their act together or risk the embarrassment of being booted out, irrespective of the consequences that will come with such a move.
Francis Zimunya and Paddington Japajapa were even excited by it all that they started lobbying the minister to act and they even went to the extent of coming up with their shadow leadership that they say should guide the game in the interim.
I am one of those who wasn’t excited, either by the minister’s comments or whatever lobbying Zimunya and Japajapa were making because, as far as I could see, there was no light at the end of this very dark tunnel.
My point is that the minister knows exactly what is wrong with our football and he lost the plot when, in his moment of excessive weakness, he was one of the first people to give his vote of confidence in the shambolic process disguised as an election for the ZIFA leadership that we had in March last year.
And, in any case, why should I be excited about him acting now when he had said virtually the same words in July last year and, between then and now, nothing had changed in as far as an improvement in the way the national game is being run?
I have been going through the archives and this is what I got.
‘CLEAN UP YOUR ACT NOW’ The Herald, June 20, 2014 Fatima Bulla Sports Reporter
ZIFA have been ordered to clean up their act or risk Government intervention to force the association to address the crisis that has trapped the national game in a quagmire and left the Warriors in international isolation for the next two years.
Langa said the Government was concerned about the poor corporate image of ZIFA which has resulted in negligible financial support being injected into the coffers of the association.
Langa was speaking at a football indaba where the Government, Sports Commission, Zifa and the corporate world where supposed to meet at the Zifa Village yesterday.
But the magnitude of the sponsors’ indifference to Zifa right now was put into perspective by the fact that only one of the 18 corporates which had been invited to the indaba chose to attend the meeting.
There was a huge outcry from scores of fans calling for the Government to intervene and suspend the Zifa board in the wake of the Warriors’ fall, in a preliminary round of the 2015 Nations Cup qualifiers, the first time the national team has failed at the first hurdle.
“Government has to date committed the largest amount of sport support to soccer, needless to say that it is the poor corporate image of Zifa that has kept away the largest source of funding from the public,” Langa said.
“YOU HAVE TO CLEAN UP DR DIBE AND YOUR BOARD OR YOU WILL RISK GOVERNEMNT INTERVENTION.
“It is also clear that football has no strong foundation, particularly in this country. The link with the youth at development level is not visible.
“Talent identification and talent nurturing is completely absent.
“The efforts of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as the most viable domain of youth development of football are not being fully utilised by Zifa
“We bring in players who do not know each other for a week and expect that they play a game that is related. I want to challenge our SRC and Zifa that let’s work together with the Minister of Education to identify this talent.” He said Zifa does not have the critical mass to take Zimbabwe football to a greater level.
Zifa risks government intervention: Langa NewsDay June 2014 SPORTS EDITOR
“It is sad to note that performance of football in Zimbabwe has been very disappointing. There is clearly no indication of technical commitment. Sport is a science that needs a clearly defined strategy. ZIFA does not have the necessary critical mass, technically, to take Zimbabwean football to the next level.
“The lack of a sound technical thrust has manifested in a negative unpatriotic practice among players at all levels.
“It remains a serious concern that Zifa has to clean up its act sooner rather than later. Zimbabweans need good soccer and good results, Zifa must deliver.
“Government has to date committed the largest amount of sports support to soccer. Needless to say that it is the poor corporate image of Zifa that has kept away the largest source of funding from the public. You have to clean up or otherwise risk government intervention,” Langa said.
Shape Up Or Ship Out The Herald, January 1, 2015 Caroline Magenga Sports Reporter
SPORT, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa is slowly losing patience with the manner in which football is being administered in the country and has warned misfiring Zifa to shape up or face drastic action this year.
Despite a year that promised so much, with the Warriors finishing fourth at the African Nations Championships tournament in Cape Town, Zifa went on a slumber and crashed from one controversy to another with the association’s poor performance highlighted by the senior team’s failure to qualify for the 2015 African Cup of Nations.
While a number of previous Warriors teams had failed to qualify for the Nations Cup, Ian Gorowa’s class of 2014 hit a new low by falling at the preliminary stage following their 3-2 aggregate defeat by lowly Tanzania.
While the Warriors were crashing out of the Nations Cup, Zifa were also weighed down by mounting litigations and where football stakeholders were meant to be regular visitors at 53 Livingstone Avenue, it was the Messenger of Court who became a familiar face as he continued to attach property.
But it appears the coterie of boobs and blunders, which compromised the governance of football, did not escape Langa’s attention and the minister has warned that he will act to stop the rot at Zifa in the New Year.
Members of the CHAN squad are still owed money although they had been promised a share of the US0 000 they earned from the competition that was won by Libya.
Langa said he was not particularly happy to note that there was disharmony within Zifa, arguing that despite the association facing financial challenges, some strides should still have been made to develop the country’s biggest sport.
“On the shortcomings, I would say our biggest disappointment has been Zifa . . . we did not do well particularly our national soccer team that failed to make any mark at all this year.
“To say the least, I am very worried and concerned about the squabbles taking place there (at Zifa) because they are not developmental or healthy to the growth of soccer in the country.
“Though financial constraints were also key to some of these issues, there are also developments that should still have taken place.
“In the case of Zifa when they were elected we gave them our directives and expectations and through the SRC we will review if they have adhered to these . . . if not then certainly action will be taken because if they are failing to deliver then there is no reason why they should remain there.
“I don’t want to pre-empt much save to say that 2015 will defiantly be a different year for the country in as far as sports are concerned,” Langa said.
MEANWHILE, THE BAND PLAYS ON
Leslie Gwindi was severe in his criticism of Langa when he went to Brazil for the Fifa World Cup, a trip the minister defended since it was sponsored by SuperSport, but that it came just after he had threatened ZIFA with action, and then the way he suddenly mellowed after coming back home, gave people like the former Harare City chairman ammunition to attack him.
The solution might not lie in Langa dissolving ZIFA since there are some consequences from Fifa when that happens.
But, the fact that Langa is issuing those threats, gives some hope that he will act, irrespective of the consequences, and when he fails to act, as has been the case between June last year and this month, then it gives people like Gwindi ammunition that he might not be the right minister to help pluck our national game from its quagmire.
I’m not sure that Langa will go to Equatorial Guinea for the Nations Cup finals, as late as last night I hadn’t received information whether SuperSport were providing freebies for Sports Ministers to travel there.
But what is clear is that the band is playing on and our national game is staggering from one crisis to another, clearly devoid of the leadership that it needs to emerge from this quagmire, and that the Warriors are not in Equatorial Guinea is another indictment of this ZIFA board and its unique remote-control-type of leadership of this game.
But, then, it’s all very normal for us.
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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