Editorial Comment: Squabbles not doing local sport any favours

THE tour by the Zimbabwe national Under-19 cricket team to South Africa in preparation for the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2020 is a very positive development.

After the game’s headlines had, in the past two months, been dominated by what was coming out of the boardroom, it is refreshing that we are now starting to read issues about what matters most — the players and what they do on the pitch representing their country.

This follows the agreement thrashed between the Zimbabwe Cricket leadership and the Sport and Recreation Commission, leading to the lifting of the suspension that had been imposed on the game’s leaders, and paving the way for cricket to start being played again in this country.

Until that agreement, the game had virtually been paralysed, with Namibia replacing the Lady Chevrons at the ICC Women T20 World Cup qualifier in Scotland between August 31 to September 7 while Nigeria have replaced the Chevrons at the ICC Men T20 World Cup Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates. But, after the agreement reached between the ZC leaders and the SRC, we are now seeing the first steps as the game begins its journey back into the light and the tour by our national Under-19 team to South Africa is a very important one.

The team will play four 50-over matches against academy and provincial youth sides.

Coach Prosper Utseya’s team will take on the Titans Academy at Sinoville in Pretoria, the Northerns Under-19 team twice and the Northerns Under-17 team.

With South Africa hosting the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2020, starting in January next year, such a tour is important because it will provide the locals with a feel of the conditions that will confront them when they play at the global showcase.

The tour will give Utseya’s side the much-needed exposure to competitive cricket and the playing conditions in South Africa, hosts of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2020 starting in January.

But, while there are some positive developments in cricket, after two tough weeks in which the ICC even threatened to terminate the Zimbabwe Cricket membership, it’s disappointing that the season of madness is once again upon us in domestic football with boardroom squabbles blighting our national game.

In the past few weeks, we have all been treated to the worst that can come from the boardroom with one negative story, after another, making the back pages of the newspapers. It culminated in the decision, last week, by the SRC writing to FIFA asking the world football governing body to dissolve the entire ZIFA board and replace it with a normalisation committee.

While the SRC advised FIFA that they were empowered to dissolve the ZIFA board, according to the SRC Act, they didn’t want to do so without consulting the world football governing body and they were actually in favour of FIFA making that move.

We always feared that things would come to that in our national game because it has been clear, in the past few months, the ship has been sailing in stormy waters. We thought the days when ZIFA would be dominated by reports of suspensions of board members and questions over their financial transactions were well and truly behind us.

Just a week after coming into office, after a shock victory over Philip Chiyangwa, ZIFA president Felton Kamambo charmed the entire nation when he revealed he was ready to embrace every member of the football family and start on a new slate.

He lifted the bans which had been imposed on 11 individuals who had been thrown into the football dustbin for various offences over the last three years.

Some of those members who had their suspensions lifted included former ZIFA board member Piraishe Mabhena, former women football bosses — Miriam Sibanda and Samukeliso Silengane — former ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, former ZIFA presidents Trevor Carelse-Juul, Rafiq Khan and Vincent Pamire and journalist Hope Chizuzu.

“The board has decided to lift all suspensions. It doesn’t mean we condone whatever led to the suspensions, or that it was right, but we felt that we wanted to unite the football family. By so doing, we felt, maybe, it’s one way that we can all start on a new slate,” said Kamambo.

“For your own information, I am not going to suspend any board member for any other offence.

“We want to treat this ZIFA as a business. Whatever we are going to do, it’s business-like. Even the type of our agenda, it’s business-like. We want to make money for ZIFA. We would want to make our fans happy next year.’’

But, a month later, ZIFA vice president Gift Banda was suspended, for allegedly making changes to the Warriors technical team without consulting fellow board members, and seven months later, his case is yet to be finalised.

And, as if that was not enough, we have seen a number of suspensions with another board member, Chamu Chiwanza, being booted out of the domestic football’s leadership with both Chiyangwa, who is the COSAFA boss, and former ZIFA vice president Omega Sibanda banned for life last week.

Sadly, rather than focus on what matters most — the appointment of a substantive coach for the Warriors and the start for the preparations for the 2020 World Cup qualifiers — we have seen all the focus being on the boardroom madness and our national game continues to suffer from all this.

Surely, this madness should not be allowed to continue for another week because being part of the ZIFA board should not about personality clashes, about boardroom battles, but about providing leadership so that our national game continues to grow and realise its massive potential.