Fans call for COSAFA Cup boycott
Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA have been badly exposed after failing to react to the waves of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, while some football fans are even demanding that Zimbabwe withdraw from the 2015 COSAFA Cup in protest.
The COSAFA Cup is set for the North West Province from May 17 to 30.
While Zimbabwe internationals Cuthbert Malajila and Tendai Ndoro have spoken out publicly against the attacks, ZIFA remained mum last night even though the association has a number of players, under its jurisdiction, who are in danger in South Africa.
“Xenophobia in our area. God protect us,” Ndoro wrote on his Facebook page.
Fans feel ZIFA should be seen to be identifying with the thousands of Zimbabweans who have been targeted in the merciless attacks on foreigners by South African thugs.
SAFA have already issued a hard-hitting statement against the thugs, while the South African Premier Soccer League have condemned the attacks on foreigners.
A withdrawal from the COSAFA Cup would send a strong message, said some of the fans, but ZIFA, instead, even posted a message on their website saying that national Under-23 coach Callisto Pasuwa will take charge of a youthful representative side at the tournament.
“National Under-23 coach Callisto Pasuwa has been tasked with leading the Zimbabwean side at the COSAFA Cup 2015 and is expecting to bring a young selection that he says will show the future potential of the national team,” ZIFA posted a story generated from the COSAFA website on their official website.
Yesterday, ZIFA communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said they could not be drawn to comment on whether or not they will take part in the COSAFA Cup as they stand guided by the Government as well as COSAFA.
“We stand guided by the Government and COSAFA, the organisers. Those are the two institutions that guide us on any decision that we may wish to make,” he said.
But while ZIFA appear to be sleeping on duty, the Lifelong Footballers’ Trust, together with Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters’ Association and Women Soccer Pioneers called for a march in Harare next week against the attacks.
Lifelong Footballers’ Trust leader Francis Zimunya Nyamutsamba said they have been given the green light by the police to hold a protest march on Thursday in Africa Unity Square from 11am.
“The march will be to demonstrate against the xenophobia attacks on our nationals in South Africa by South Africans citizens,” said Zimunya in a statement.
“Thousands of Zimbabwean footballers have plied their trade in South Africa over the years with most of them and their families residing and working there temporarily and permanently.
“Currently, thousands of Zimbabweans footballers, artistes and athletes from all disciplines such as rugby, athletics, tennis and swimming, live with their families, and work, in South Africa.
“Some of them have gone to the extent of raising their national flag, playing for the South African national team, only to be treated as such.”
The organisers of the COSAFA Cup said the attacks on foreigners were a political issue.
“We don’t make comments on issues of a political nature. It’s happening (in the country to host the) COSAFA Cup 2015, yes, and a month away but it’s nowhere near where the tournament will be held,” said COSAFA chief operating officer Sue Destombes.
But the South African Premier Soccer League yesterday took a stance against xenophobia.
“The 32 Premier Soccer League club captains have joined chairman Dr Irvin Khoza in taking a stand against violence and attacks on other human beings,” the league said in a statement.
“This week in South Africa has been riddled with violence which saw some people losing their lives through these attacks.
“This has touched and affected the foreign players who are currently playing for South African clubs in both the Absa Premiership and National First Division.
“Clubs from the Premier Division and NFD will observe a moment of silence ahead of their fixtures this weekend in respect of those who have lost their lives during the xenophobic attacks.
“Captains from all the clubs will read a message of solidarity for the victims of violence.
“The PSL calls for calm and tolerance. We say no to the hatred of fellow human beings.”
Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim Shakes Mashaba also released a statement, on behalf of all the national team coaches of South Africa, condemning the attacks.
“First of all, I on behalf of all national team coaches, would like to say A BIG NO TO XENOPHOBIC VIOLENCE. It is something completely wrong and unacceptable,” read the statement.
“Bafana Bafana, Banyana Banyana, and all the South African junior and other national teams condemn such actions unequivocally. We can’t say to people because you don’t come from this country, then you are inferior and unwelcome; the bottom line is we are all Africans, and we need to understand that.
“When our parents were growing up, their desire was to belong to a free Africa in which South Africa was part of. Now that we have democracy, we cannot say South Africa is only for us. We live in a global village these days.
“Let us refrain from abusing our fellow brothers and sisters who are in this country. They are not here because they are lost; they came here because they said they were coming to their fellow brothers and sisters.
“Let us embrace them and live together as one united family. On behalf of all national teams, I condemn the barbaric acts being perpetrated by a few individuals.”
Mashaba said the violence was an attack on Nelson Mandela’s vision.
“The late former state president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela once said: ‘Never, and never again will there be one person having an edge over another person.’
“What is happening now is taking several steps backwards because we have gone against Madiba’s teach- ings.
“The late Tata wanted freedom for his people; he wanted them to be independent, to live the kind of lives they wanted. The democracy we are enjoying today is a democracy for the whole continent.
“To those perpetrating these xenophobic attacks, I want to say to them they are not part of us and if they want to, must stop these barbaric acts immediately.
“Madiba must be turning in his grave to see what is happening in his beloved country because this is not the kind of freedom he fought for.”