CUTHBERT Dube’s chaotic five-year reign as Zifa president, unpopular with the fans, rejected by the sponsors and which ultimately ended in the embarrassment of him being pushed out of office by the councillors who had elected him, came to a dramatic, if not humiliating, ending in Harare last weekend.
A man who took over as leader of domestic football saying that he was the Messiah who would find solutions to all the ills afflicting our national game now stands accused of running it down, in just five years and leaving it drowning in a sea of debt.
Even Fifa, who for long backed Dube and stood on his side when those who voted for him began to question his leadership and where he was taking their game, finally conceded at the weekend that our football now faces a very bleak future and could disappear from the international football radar.
Already, our Warriors have been banned from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which get underway this coming weekend, after Zifa failed to extinguish a debt owed to former national team coach, Valinhos, over a period of six years and is now more than $80 000.
The Warriors could also be barred from playing at the 2022 World Cup qualifiers unless Zifa, or the country, pays more than $160 000 that is owed to another Warriors’ coach, Tom Saintfiet, a Belgian gaffer who only coached our national team for one day in 2010 before he was deported by the immigration authorities for working without a work permit.
The Young Warriors have not been playing in competitive tournaments like the Fifa Under-17 and Under-20 Championships for some time now and the Mighty Warriors’ trip to Cameroon, for a 2016 Olympic Games qualifier last weekend, was only rescued at the last minute by the intervention of the Government.
That Dube was a monumental failure is not even questionable. What was even more disappointing about Dube’s leadership was that he looked indifferent to the plight of our game, a man who chose to watch the World Cup in Brazil rather than go to Rufaro and cheer his Warriors and for five years, he never cared to be there at the stadiums to inspire our boys and girls whenever they were in action. The more he stayed in his position, the more reclusive he became and on the occasions that he talked about our football, it was all about the money that he claims to have been pumping into the game as if he had turned himself into a sponsor, rather than a leader, of Zimbabwe football.
Now that he is gone, the tougher task of rescuing our football begins and given the damage that Dube and his fellow leaders inflicted, in the past five years, it’s likely to be harder than throwing them out of their leadership seats.
Zimbabwe football, today, is crying out for a leader who loves the game first, who is passionate about the Warriors, Mighty Warriors and Young Warriors, who wants to see these teams qualifying for the finals of major international tournaments and who wants to see our clubs returning to the African inter-club tournaments and writing some success stories.
We badly need a leader who is humble enough to know that he or she is just a part of this game’s machinery and not the be-all-and-end-all of our national sport, who has the courage to confront the damage inflicted by Dube and his cronies, the vision to find the revenue streams that can feed life back into the game and extinguish its debts and the appeal that draws corporate partners into his or her corner.
We need a leader who understands that he or she can’t do it alone, he or she needs the input of every man and woman on that Zifa board to help him or her steer our stricken ship from these stormy waters and who acknowledges that the game is bigger than him or her, unlike Dube, who kept bragging that our national game would have long died if he had not arrived on the scene.
We need a leader who understands that it’s his vision and not the size of his bank account, which will help us out of this mess, who doesn’t barricade himself in his mansion while the game is burning and who means every word that he or she says and who can lead and not be led, by the Zifa chief executive, as appeared to be the case when Dube was in charge.
We need a leader who understands his priorities and that is to lead in the development of our game, from the grassroots right to the national football teams, one who consults widely before making decisions and one who will always be guided by what is good for our football, and our country and not for his or her interests.
We need a leader who will bring together the factions that we see in our football today, one who can be respected by the players, the sponsors and the fans and a man or woman who will preach what he means and not Dube who, at some point, felt that he was bigger than all these important branches of our national sport.
Of course, we are down right now and it can never get any worse than not playing in the World Cup qualifiers and with a $6 million debt hanging above our heads, but that means things can’t get any worse than what they are and if we get the right people to lead us, and not indifferent characters like Dube who started to feel like they were God’s gift to our game, we can lift ourselves from the quagmire.
It won’t be easy, but it can be done and whatever happens from now, our national game is better off without the blundering Cuthbert Dube.