Robson Sharuko in HARARE and Zvamaida Murirwa in PRETORIA, South Africa
PROPHET Walter Magaya, who has poured a fortune in donations into ZIFA coffers and is building a 25 000-seater multi-purpose sports stadium in Harare, has dismissed suggestions that he is positioning himself to become the next leader of the debt-ridden association.
The Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries leader has injected more funds, in donations, into ZIFA than any other individual and corporate this year as he bailed out the Warriors and Mighty Warriors on a number of occasions.
He handed 560 000 rand to the Warriors, who went to the COSAFA Cup, in South Africa earlier this year, bailed out the team ahead of their trip to the 2017 Nations Cup qualifier in Malawi and also gave the senior national team $20 000 to quell a revolt against the ZIFA leadership on the morning of the 2017 AFCON battle against Guinea. Magaya is also building a 25 000-seater stadium in Harare’s Waterfalls suburb, which he hopes to complete by the end of this year and — as ZIFA search for a president after Cuthbert Dube was unceremoniously ousted by the councillors on Saturday — his name has, inevitably, featured prominently in the race to become the next leader of domestic football.
As the game searches for its new leader, Magaya’s passion for domestic football, where he also owns Division One franchise Gunners and his vision that success for the Warriors should be determined by dancing with global football heavyweights at the World Cup, has won him nay admirers who believe he could be the right man to lead ZIFA.
But Magaya says his plate is full at the moment and becoming the next ZIFA president was not part of his priorities.
“I will not take that offer to lead ZIFA, if given the opportunity, because I have enough on my plate at the moment,” Magaya told journalists in Pretoria.
“I am building a stadium, basketball court, swimming pool, volleyball court, running tracks (in Waterfalls). I want to promote sport at the highest level. We are going to employ sports administrators who are going to manage the facilities and coordinate all activities, including identifying talent and promoting it to its highest level.
“My desire is for the facility to send to the next Olympics, at least, 30 people who are very good in different sporting disciplines.
“I am building this facility mainly for the benefit of the community. I have discovered that Zimbabwe has a lot of talent, but we are failing to identify and promote it.
“I was praying to finish the stadium in November, but I think I have failed. December is now my target.”
Last year, Magaya said it was his wish to see the Warriors playing at the World Cup finals and believes the country has the potential to qualify for the biggest football tournament on the globe if only the players, fans and officials can share the same belief.
A number of names have been mentioned, in connection with the race to succeed Dube, whose mandate to lead domestic football was revoked just 18 months after he was handed a fresh four-year term in March last year with the councillors adamant that the Harare business executive and his leadership had lost their way.
The Warriors’ expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, without kicking a ball, after the ZIFA leaders failed — in six years — to extinguish a debt owed to former national team coach Valinhos, was highlighted by the councillors as one of the major failings of Dube and his leadership.
Dube resigned, on the eve of the extra-ordinary meeting in the capital after realising that he had lost the support of those who elected him into power and instead rolled out a roadmap, which would see him remaining as the leader until December 5.
However, the councillors felt that his presence, as the outgoing ZIFA president, was likely to hurt their game even more and called for a vote to decide whether he should remain, as a lame duck leader, or he should leave last Saturday.
An overwhelming 51 ZIFA councillors voted for Dube and his ZIFA board to be booted out, with immediate effect, while only three — a humiliation for a man who recently claimed that he had more than 90 percent support among the councillors — voted for him to stay a little bit longer.
Even if the ZIFA councillors had failed to dismiss their leadership, the new Sport and Recreation Minister, Makhosini Hlongwane, revealed on Monday night that he was set to axe Dube’s board for a catalogue of failures, including losing the financial support from FIFA — key for keeping the game alive — for failing to submit audited accounts. Hlongwane told a select group of journalists that his meetings with the FIFA delegation, which came to Harare for the ZIFA extra-ordinary general meeting held last Saturday, showed that the Government would not have attracted sanctions from the world football body in the event that he dissolved the Dube leadership.
The Sports Minister said any Football Association, which loses the financial support of FIFA for failing to submit their audited accounts, would have virtually revoked their mandate to lead the game and if higher authorities intervened to sort out the mess in such a scenario, it couldn’t be viewed as Government interference.
Hlongwane also revealed that he would still press ahead with his bid to appeal against the FIFA decision to throw Zimbabwe out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
He said he remained confident that the appeal would be successful, revealing that he was told by ZIFA officials that FIFA promised them $2 million last year, which the association wanted to use to extinguish the debt they owed to Valinhos.
Hlongwane said he was advised that the money was not delivered as promised, leaving ZIFA unable to pay Valinhos as scheduled and if that was correct, then it was not right for FIFA to punish Zimbabwe when the Zurich-based organisation had failed to meet its part of the bargain.
The punishment itself, said Hlongwane, was grossly unfair since it did not promote football development, something that FIFA were committed to doing around the world and the Minister revealed that a local delegation could still go to Zurich to try and fight for Zimbabwe to play in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
Meanwhile, Hlongwane says the $5 000 which ZIFA were demanding from prospective board members for them to qualify to battle for posts on the panel that leads domestic football was outrageous and needed to be reviewed.
He believes that candidates should, at worst, be asked to pay $500.