Yesterday, football fans got a reminder that its been three years since they celebrated the election of Felton Kamambo as president of the country’s governing body, ZIFA.
By Lawrence Mangenje
The Harare businessman beat incumbent Philip Chiyangwa on December 16 2018, to assume the leadership of the national association, in what many thought would be a new era.
However, three years into his tenure, the wishes of the football-loving public and reality are as far apart as day and night.
For starters, Kamambo’s sycophants regard Zimbabwe’s qualification for the 2019 AFCON finals as one of his achievements but realistically speaking, when he took over, the Warriors booking a place at the continental spectacle was just a question of when, not a matter of if.
They were just two games away from finishing the qualifying campaign and as expected, they crossed the line with a comfortable 2-0 win over Congo Brazzaville at the National Sports Stadium.
The Kamambo-led administration’s first test was the AFCON campaign in Egypt, one which they failed dismally.
Zimbabwe made headlines for the wrong reasons throughout the tournament in Cairo, with confrontations over money between the players and ZIFA leadership taking more time than the team formulating strategies to defeat opponents on the field of play.
In fact, at some point, the players threatened to not fulfil the tournament’s opener against Egypt, as well as the last group game against the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Kamambo and his lieutenants were accused of wasting money flying people who had nothing to with football, to Cairo, while they played hide and seek with remunerating the players.
The 0-4 loss the Warriors suffered at the hands of DRC, an opponent they defeated in their own backyard in front of 80 000 screaming fans during the qualifiers, summed up what was a chaotic tournament.
After the AFCON debacle, Chidzambwa threw in the towel and Kamambo and company brought in Joey Antipas as head coach on a interim basis.
Mafero, as Antipas is fondly-reffered to by those who love him and admire his football journey, oversaw the Warriors’ 3-2 on aggregate win over Somalia in the preliminary round of the World Cup qualifiers.
He went on to collect four points out of a possible six in the AFCON 2021 qualifying campaign but regardless, he was regarded as not good enough to get the job on a permanent basis.
Instead, the Kamambo-led board shocked the nation and hired firebrand Croat Zdravko Logarusic as the Warriors coach, in February 2020.
At Logarusic’s unveiling at Cresta Oasis, Kamambo struggled to justify the outspoken coach’s appointment, to the point of claiming he has 20 years coaching experience.
Inevitably, Logarusic, just like Kamambo, turned out to be bad news for Zimbabwean football.
Under the Croat, the Warriors won just one of their 15 matches, the decisive 1-0 win over Botswana in Fracistown, one which sealed qualification for the 33rd edition of the AFCON finals in Cameroon.
While Logarusic did play a part in ensuring that the Warriors booked a spot at the biannual showpiece, the decision to give him 10% of the money given to Zimbabwe by CAF, was not only a big joke; it was an insult to the three local coaches who have previously achieved qualification.
The decision to have Logarusic land the biggest coaching job in the country also cost the national team perhaps their biggest chance to qualify for the World Cup.
Drawn in Group G, alongside Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia, the general consensus among Warriors fans was that this was a a reasonable group in which everyone had the chance to qualify for the global spectacle in Qatar.
But the team got off to a very poor start and collected just one point from the opening two matches, resulting in football stakeholders cranking pressure on the Kamambo-led administration, for Loga to be shown the exit door.
He was eventually dismissed on September 12, though many felt it was too late.
The country’s sports regulatory body, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), finally lost patience and suspended Kamambo and crew on November 15, for several violations, chief among them failure to account for public funds.
Whether or not the SRC’s move is in the best interest of Zimbabwean football is a debate for another day, one thing for sure is that under Kamambo, the beautiful game was in intensive care unit.
ZIFA under Kamambo, three years of Failton.