sharukoFROM my little office I watched it all unfold, live on national television, as a very courageous woman confronted a domestic football empire, built over five years by a reclusive emperor, allergic to the company of the very fans who make this game such a global force.Football plucked billionaire English businessman Mike Ashley from a life of reclusion, where he lived before his £134 million takeover of Newcastle United brought him into the limelight and the stands of St James Park in 2007, most of his 24 000 workers didn’t even know what he looked like.

But the same game which helped the world know that there is a Russian billionaire called Roman Abramovich, when he took over Chelsea and became a regular in the VIP suite at Stamford Bridge, appears to have driven Cuthbert Dube into being a reclusive emperor of Zimbabwean football.

His empire is managed, or rather mismanaged, by a chief executive described, exactly a year ago, as a “habitual liar” by the last substantive head coach to take charge of the Warriors while a former Mighty Warriors fitness coach described him as a “pathological liar.”

It’s an empire that, until last January, was being run from a plush sixth floor office in Harare’s Central Business District, overlooking the green lawns of Africa Unity Square, and one that, since then, is now being run from Dube’s home.

An empire that Jonathan Mashingaidze has run for the past five years, with an iron fist that ruthlessly crushed those who dared criticise his management style, sweeping away former allies like Josh Khumalo once he was deemed to be asking too many questions in a regime where he was supposed to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

The chief executive became such a powerful man that it was a privilege if he answered your phone, it was one of those rare occasions when he was found in his office, he even had a personal taxi driver who took him from one place to another, for years, and on one occasion they even dashed, in that taxi, from Harare to Zvishavane, to attend the FC Platinum awards ceremony.

All the time, the bill was being passed to an empire whose emperor was so rich he could even afford to pay for a chartered Air Zimbabwe Boeing 767 passenger plane to fly the Warriors, and scores of their supporters, to a Nations Cup qualifier on the north-western part of the continent in Mali.

That it didn’t make economic sense for the CEO to keep using a hired taxi for his errands, given that by the end of just one month the empire would have spent so much money it would have been enough to buy him an official vehicle, that would have remained an asset of the empire even if changes had been effected in the office, didn’t matter.

After all, he had manipulated the constitution of the empire, as everyone focused on elections that were held last year, to ensure that it would give all powers, when it comes to his hiring and dismissal, to the emperor who would be reminded, now and again, he owed his position to the political games the CEO had played in the countdown to the elections.

And when a board member asked him to answer some questions, she was told “you must appreciate that I have an office to run and I have a clear reporting structure, I report to the ZIFA president and I interface with board members from time to time.”

The powerful CEO hand-picked the board members, the politically correct ones, to see delegates from FIFA, even though their visit was related to the empire’s crippling debt, the board member elected to take care of the empire’s finances was not there because there were fears he would have raised the anomaly that, seven months after the elections, he was not yet a signatory to the empire’s bank accounts.
The board member in charge of women’s football was not there — how could she be invited to the meeting when even these delegates from Fifa had not been advised, seven months down the line, that she was now the leader of that wing of the game and, after all, in the words of the all-powerful CEO, “women’s football was petty.”

But, as fate would have it, it was a 31-year-old woman, still young enough to have been playing for the Mighty Warriors if she had chosen a career in football and not basketball, which gave her a scholarship to an American college, and then plunging into politics, which gave her a ticket into Parliament, who finally summoned enough courage to confront the empire on Wednesday.

A powerful woman whose standing in society meant the CEO of the empire would not, in his response, describe her as either a “vampire” or a “criminal” as was the case when he exploded, earlier this month, after running out of patience with the pressure that was being exerted by Chris Sambo, Paddington Japajapa and Francis Zimunya.

A woman who was bold enough to say what her boss, Sport Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa, has been failing to say for the past two years even when it was very clear to him that things were not going as expected at the country’s biggest football association.

And, as she spoke, the powerful lyrics of John Farnham’s hit song, “You’re The Voice,” came exploding in my head.

“We have the chance to turn the pages over
We can write what we want to write
We gotta make ends meet, before we get much older

“We’re all someone’s daughter
We’re all someone’s son
How long can we look at each other
Down the barrel of a gun?

“You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make the noise and make it clear, oh, woah
We’re not gonna sit in silence
We’re not gonna live with fear, oh, woah

“This time, we know we all can stand together
With the power to be powerful
Believing we can make it better.

And, I saw the country’s lawmakers, people who normally would be divided along political lines, unite in cheering what she was saying and that was not only just refreshing but showed that, when it comes to issues related to their national game, they find each other irrespective of their political differences.

THE MEMO AND THE DEPUTY MINISTER’S CONCERNS

As I listened to Thabitha Kanengoni-Malinga, the Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister, blast the ZIFA board for its shortcomings, my thoughts raced back to that explosive memorandum, which was written by some of the board members earlier this month, questioning how the association was being run.

It’s a memorandum that has caused a lot of divisions at 53 Livingstone Avenue, especially after its contents appeared in this newspaper, and a number of ZIFA board members were, as expected, lined up to provide voices, in another newspaper, to say that either it didn’t exist or that they were not party to it.

Even after the CEO of the empire had written to the board members, questioning them whether they were part of the memorandum, which confirmed that the memorandum was sitting on the table, there were still some attempts to discredit it as a creation of this newspaper.

But that’s the way the world is and, interestingly, analysing what Kanengoni-Malinga said in parliament, and the following day when she re-iterated her position, I found something interesting, something strikingly similar between the memorandum by the board members and the deputy minister’s concerns.

ZIFA Board Members’ concerns in their memo

“Since our election into office we have noted with growing concern the poor governance, lack of transparency, lack of unity of purpose and double standards that prevail in the running of the ZIFA Board. We are worried that there are some board members who appear to have your ear and support, Mr President, while the rest of us are condemned to oblivion without any access to you at all. The only time we hear from you is in the media when you speak on our behalf but without consulting us.”

Kanengoni-Malinga’s position this week

“The problem that we are having in ZIFA is a management issue. Cuthbert Dube has been in this position for many years but you don’t see any positive results in terms of the management side of football.

“I speak to some board members in ZIFA, I won’t mention their names, but there are so many complaints about it being a Cuthbert/Mashingaidze show.”

NewsDay’s Report, Wednesday,  January 28 2015

Young Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa will today meet with Dube and chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze to plan for the (Olympic and All-Africa Games) qualifiers.

ZIFA Board Members concerns in their memo

“Women football has had no official handover, neither has official communication been sent to CAF and FIFA to advise that there is a new chairperson that CAF should communicate with.

Again, we ask why, Mr President? The CEO is on record as saying women’s football is petty. He was never reprimanded therefore, suggesting that is the view of the board.”

Kanengoni-Malinga’s position this week

“Women’s football is suffering.  I spoke to Mr Dube sometime back when we had our indaba at the ZIFA Village and I spoke to him at length about supporting the Mighty Warriors and not to sideline them and making sure they continue to do well as they have been doing better than the boys.

“He promised me he was going to do something but nothing has been done.  Last year the girls even failed to play their Unity Day match, which they do annually. But instead of focusing on that Unity Day match they (ZIFA) were focussing on another game that was supposed to happen in South Africa for the boys.

“I thought that was totally out of order, their priorities are definitely not in the right place.”

ZIFA Board Members concerns in their memo

“As things stand, the Board Member Finance has been systematically frustrated by being denied access to the association’s financial records. As things stand, we cannot as board members stand up and tell the nation that truly ZIFA owes the huge amounts we read about because we have not been afforded an opportunity to understand how the debt was accrued. When the FIFA officials came to discuss ZIFA’s debt, the Board Member Finance was excluded.”

Kanengoni-Malinga’s position this week

“They (ZIFA) are in so much debt people call us asking us to help them recover their monies. There is another person who went to court recently and couldn’t recover anything because they have to wait in a queue because everyone is trying to get ZIFA assets.

“That has nothing to do with the Government, it has everything to do with a terrible management style that is present in ZIFA and, if as Government, we continue to smile and look at it, we are not going to go anywhere and we will continue discrediting the (football) talent that we have in this country.”

The ZIFA board members, and the Deputy Minister, all can’t be wrong.

WE SHOULD TRY TO AVOID SUSPENSION AT ALL COST

Kanengoni-Malinga said Government was prepared to bear the brunt of possible Fifa sanctions, which might include the country’s suspension from international football, just to ensure that the game’s leadership was sorted out, which means the dissolution of the board, and the proper systems were put in place.

It’s a radical position that has received a lot of support across the country, but I believe that it’s not the right path, as of now, and there are other avenues that should be explored without plunging the entire nation into football isolation.

FC Platinum, for instance, have spent a sizeable amount of money just to prepare for their return to the CAF inter-club competitions, and it’s not fair that their investment, which has all been in good faith to try and fly their country’s flag, should go down the drain for the sins of football leaders who don’t care about those players’ development.

There is no need for the Young Warriors, who are scheduled to return to action on the continent next month after missing three years of playing on this stage, and the benefit of the exposure that comes with such competition simply because the same football leadership failed to send them to Brazzaville and Luanda, to be punished yet again for the shortcomings of the very people who have kept them on the sidelines of continental football since 2012.

There is no need for the Young Warriors’ quest for a place at the All-Africa Games and the Olympic Games to be disrupted by a house-cleaning exercise given the suffering that this generation has suffered, in terms of lack of exposure, since the same football leaders failed to send them to play in Luanda and Brazzaville three years ago.

There is no need for the Mighty Warriors to play the part of sacrificial lambs again, simply because we want to sort out our leadership issues, given that — as we saw against Zambia in their final African Women Championship qualifier — they are already drifting far away from the club of the heavyweights which they were a member a few years ago and, lack of international action, could only make their plight worse.

There is no need for Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, and all those boys from England that we saw playing for our country in that friendly in Morocco, who charmed us and gave us hope that they could make a team that can compete well on the continent, to lose another opportunity of taking a crack at the Nations Cup, in June this year, simply because we have a leadership crisis in our game that should be sorted out.

Musona and Khama, two of our brightest prospects, were sadly injured and missed the horror show, disguised as qualifiers for the 2015 Nations Cup finals, where we lost at the hands of Tanzania.

Surely, after what these boys have gone through, they deserve another chance.

Remember Khama’s ocean of tears in Luanda following that loss to the Angolans which rendered, null and void, his supershow at Rufaro, where his inspirational performance put us within touching distance of a place at the 2013 Nations Cup finals only for ZIFA to distract their focus by putting him, and his teammates, on the same plane with alcoholic supporters, on that flight to Angola?

Remember what they did to Musona, accusing him of all sorts of things that tarnished his image in international football, and four years later, Mashingaidze is yet to provide an iota of evidence that our talisman is such a bad apple whom he even labelled a match-fixer?

The football leadership who have failed, and they know it now because the Deputy Minister’s message was loud and clear, should be asked to put their nation first, and just walk away from all this because this is not their empire but a national game, and that way a solution can be found, for systems to be put in place, without punishing the poor players.

Kanengoni-Malinga is a mother and she felt the pain when those Warriors came to him, during the Gushungo Cup final, telling him that they were yet to be paid what they were promised when they represented the country at the CHAN finals last year.

Surely, Cde Minister, let those boys plunge back into battle, flying the flag of their nation, rather than punishing them on all fronts by getting them banned from international football.

THANK GOD, GUINEA HAVE QUALIFIED FOR THE AFCON QUARTER-FINALS

There are a lot of bad things that have been happening in this world, someone who doesn’t believe God is there has even become the Prime Minister of Greece, a country one feels needs all the grace that the Lord can give it to climb out of its economic challenges.

But if you are one of those who doubt that God is there, then Guinea’s qualification into the quarter-finals of the 2015 Nations Cup finals should provide your answer.

A country ravaged by the Ebola virus, which needs something to cheer its spirits, plays all its home matches in Morocco and, somehow, against all odds, qualifies for the 2015 AFCON finals and, in a heavyweight group that includes Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Mali, they emerge unbeaten.

They are put into a pot, for the drawing of lots, to decide who qualifies for the last eight between them and Mali, and their name comes out as the winners, and the world cheers for them.

Remember Guinea, of course you do, even Valinhos’ Warriors could not be beaten by these West Africans in the 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers in Conakry and in Harare.

Remember Mali, of course you do, Mhofu beating them here, and holding them in their backyard in Bamako, and laying the foundation for our qualification for the 2004 Nations Cup finals, Norman Mapeza beating them here, just four years ago, with Musona scoring a double at Rufaro.

That was then, when our football was played on the field and not in the boardroom by Jonathan Mashingaidze.

To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Di Mariaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
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