Football and the whole world are in mourning after the news of the passing of football legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé. He was one of the greatest players to grace the field of play and the feeling about his death around the world at this hour is what many Zimbabweans are experiencing when it comes to the state of our local football.
Zimbabwe is a football loving nation like many others around the globe. The biggest difference Zimbabwe has with those other nations is the lack of sound administration and unity of purpose among the football stakeholders.
We have many problems we face as a nation concerning our sport but football has been the most hit, because our challenge has been failure to or lack of zeal in coming up with workable solutions.
Football isn’t just about kicking the round ball; it unifies the world in many aspects. Proper administration and development of the beautiful game has a lasting social impact, as it improves the lives of people in the world.
Zimbabwean football administration has been the talk since the early 70s when the then Football Association of Rhodesia (FAR) was suspended by FIFA on 16 November 1973 after issues to do with racial discrimination. FIFA’s feedback after FAR had written to them was for the national association to amend its constitution to the satisfaction of all clubs at that time and this was confirmed by the then Rhodesia National Football League president —the late John Madzima.
The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA)’s commitment to our football was questionable and came to the spotlight once again as early as the 90s.
On February 27 1993, the late President Robert Mugabe and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) were not amused by the way ZIFA administered our local football. This led to the SRC suspending the Trevor Carelse Juul- led ZIFA board and the association’s entire Council, necessitating elections to be held.
The main issues that led to the suspension were maladministration and financial mismanagement which prompted the SRC to order a full audit of the ZIFA finances.
We currently find ourselves in the same scenario 29 years later when the Felton Kamambo- led ZIFA executive was suspended by the SRC due to the same issues of questionable commitment to our local football, maladministration and financial mismanagement which also prompted the sports regulatory body to order a forensic audit which unearthed abuse of the association’s funds.
Source of Problems: Administration
FIFA plays a fundamental role in society, and therefore adherence to good governance principles is fundamental to the world football governing body’s border social mission.
All national associations are obliged, as representatives of FIFA in their countries, to respect the statutes, aims and ideals of the governing body and promote and manage football accordingly as they receive both financial and logistical support through various programmes.
It’s unfortunate that we no longer have the administrators of the late John Madzima’s calibre, who had football at heart and wanted to see its success. We have allowed people to lead our football to satisfy their own interests at the expense of developing the game.
Most ‘administrators’ who have found their way to 53 Livingstone Avenue (ZIFA house) were tempted by the funding the association gets from FIFA and the corporate world.
Maladministration has marred our beautiful game of football for a long time with no proper checks and balances. Various national teams from the U17s up to the senior team have suffered at the hands of the football leaders and women’s football has come out worse.
This therefore implies that we should look beyond individuals coming and going but a complete system overhaul because without that, everything will eventually come to a complete stop.
The suspension by FIFA was a blessing in disguise for us to rectify the whole system to save our football from total collapse by looking at the constitution and also making sure that there are certain qualification conditions for someone to run for football administration posts in the country.
We have read of so many stories which unearthed a very worrying trend where elevation to the top administration posts in football have been through patronage and clandestine secret meetings where the vote is decided well before the voting day.
We are still waiting for the SRC report on the purported overhaul to the system as we are heading to the ZIFA elections early next year as going to the poll without significant changes to the ZIFA constitution will take us back to the same situation we are in at the moment.
We are in need of a national association of reputation led by men and women of integrity who are committed to duty more than anything else.
There are people who think they are not supposed to be challenged and will always place a heavy hand on those individuals or constituents they think have dissenting voices.
At some point, the Zimbabwe Soccer Coaches Association (ZISCA) were removed from the ZIFA Assembly after they started making critical contributions to the Assembly on the status quo of our football administration in general.
Constituents like NAPH, NASH, Tertiary Institutions, Beach Football, Five-A-Side, and Area Zones are supposed to make meaningful contributions as they are responsible for grassroots football development but unfortunately, they are just there to make up numbers on election day and there is almost nothing meaningful coming from them for football development.
Most of the ZIFA Council members cannot question obvious maladministration for fear of being frozen on appointments such as Head of Delegation for foreign trips which come with a few dollars for their pockets.
They say the fish rots starting from the head and when the rot is at the highest office in our local football then expect nothing good from the lower structures. The rot at ZIFA is also manifesting itself at the Premier Soccer League where they abandoned a more useful executive setup to set a Board of Governors to run the local league.
How did we arrive at such a position when we had a thriving system that saw our league compete at regional and continental levels with huge successes being recorded by our local clubs in CAF competitions?
The Board of Governors is made up of the PSL clubs’ executive chairpersons who decided to wrest the control of the top-flight league from a more competent management committee led by Tapiwa Matangaidze, under the guise of following a FIFA roadmap.
It is really unfortunate that our PSL is being turned into a circus by the same people who duped everyone into believing that having a board of governors as opposed to the management committee would bring viability, accountability and sponsorship to the league and clubs.
While the same system is in use in other countries such as South Africa, I feel in our case, our PSL is not ready to take that route. In South Africa, the board of governors is a policy-making body with the league being run by a fully-fledged professional secretariat. In our case the PSL has virtually no secretariat to talk about as they are just there to pass the governance test.
It is common knowledge that members of the board of governors are heavily involved in the day-to-day running of our league’s affairs and this has compromised the league’s performance. Here we have club chairpersons who are failing to lead their own clubs entrusted with a bigger challenge of leading the PSL.
My opinion on the issue of administrators is that ZIFA and PSL have to play an active role in whoever wants to take any post in football.
No club appointment should be done before due diligence is conducted by the PSL and ZIFA on the appointed individual, so as to weed out mal-elements in football administration.
People with poor or bad governance issues before shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near football administration and certain posts must come with required minimum qualifications at all football structures level.
They have minimum qualifications for a coach to sit on the bench as a head coach but no minimum qualifications for those involved in administrative roles in those entities which shows double standards and hypocrisy to say the least.
Why the corporate world is shunning our football?
Every success story when it comes to investment in business is measured by the corresponding return on investment. Before committing any funds, every business conducts its own due diligence research and the resultant report will determine the decision to be made.
One of the main issues with funding decisions being made hinges on safeguarding those funds as well as the going concern of the business entity being funded in some cases.
Most of these issues depend on the integrity of the people running our football —whether their past and current conduct has what it takes for the corporate world to commit their brand, funds and goodwill to a certain organisation as such attachments come with great risk or return.
We have seen some Zimbabwean corporates shunning local football for international partnerships which should be a real concern for our local administrators but it seems they are not bothered at all.
We have seen two companies Doves Zimbabwe and Minerva Risk Advisors striking a deal with Spanish La Liga team Real Betis whilst a money transfer company, Mukuru, has partnered with London based English Premier League club Crystal Palace. This is a sign that we have local companies who are willing to partner with the right entities because this is a win-win situation for all.
We should take an introspection of our football administration if we dream of seeing it move forward.
The just-released forensic audit report on ZIFA doesn’t paint a good picture for anyone to commit their funds and even FIFA wouldn’t continue supporting our national association financially if they really cared about our football development.
FIFA, in my view, should play a key role in making sure these associations account for every cent that has been given to them and failure to account resulting in lifetime bans on any future football administration post. The audit report released by the SRC on 17 November this year unearthed massive financial prejudice to the national association of more than US$617 915.95 and $73 million in local currency by the Kamambo-led ZIFA board.
The audit was conducted by BDO Zimbabwe Chartered Accountants and covered the period between December 1, 2018 and November 30, 2021 when Kamambo was the ZIFA president.
This rot is also found within our PSL clubs as the local league administrators have been slacking in one of their duties —making sure that all teams have to submit audited financial reports as part of their checks and balances.
Most of our clubs end up folding because they appear financially sound from the outside but their going concern status is questionable, with the latest example being Bulawayo Chiefs.
Amakhosi, as Chiefs like to call themselves, have been looking financially stable from the outside but the club has been financially bleeding and failed to pay their players and technical team for the past six months. All this can be avoided when the PSL decides to do their job professionally so as to lure back the corporate world.
Every club has to prepare financial reports at the end of each quarter for monitoring purposes to avoid situations where stakeholders will be shocked by imminent collapse of clubs. Those experiencing going concern issues and still in the league must be placed under administration to manage their affairs until the end of the season and if nothing changes, forced to fold to protect the image and integrity of the league. Implementation of this will bring confidence to our league and corporate sponsors may rethink their corporate social responsibility strategy and come back to sponsor our football.
Lack of unity and common purpose
The Zimbabwean football community lacks unity and common purpose hence our failure to come up with sound solutions to the problems bedeviling our football.
There is no unity amongst former and current players who are bribed by peanuts and lose focus to the detriment of their own development after football. Most of them don’t know of the many programmes which are offered by FIFA to further develop them as administrators and coaches and the few who are aware of them don’t disseminate the information because it comes with funding. That funding, sadly, is converted to personal use because those supposed to benefit know nothing about it.
The suspension by FIFA should have shown us something about their unity and common purpose but alas my people perish because of lack of knowledge.
We have our own Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) who are supposed to set a precedent by performing checks and balances when it comes to players’ rights but are being found short as well because of lack of transparency and accountability which has affected our football in general.
We have had many players whose clubs folded due to insolvency and the players are supposed to benefit from the FIFA Fund for Football Players, which provides financial support to footballers who have not been paid and have no chance of receiving the wages agreed with their clubs.
If they have written to FIFA or FIFPro, did they manage to assist any and do the players know that there is such a fund? If not, why is it that they don’t know?
So all these issues are kept in secrecy just like any other football matters and have contributed much to the rot of our football because people benefit from something that is meant for other people.
FIFA provides funding for the training of coaches, be it professional coaching or grassroots development coaching but most of the ZIFA posts on coaching courses come with a fee and not a single course has come for free to the coaches where FIFA funding set for that will be utilized.
How then do we expect to develop our football when we can’t be visionary to know where our football development starts from? We need football leaders who are not greedy and who are transparent in their dealings for us to move forward or else we will always be talking about missed opportunities for eternity.
Lack of business acumen
Most of our administrators don’t understand the difference between corporate management and football management hence the reason we still lag behind in terms of commercialising our football.
Football, as an industry, has its own unique revenue streams which when identified and nurtured well, will see a change in our football revenues leading to significant economic turnaround and contribute to the overall gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.
Football is a big business when professionally run. Our administrators failed to take advantage of the SuperSport TV deal because they only looked at the initial investment but failed to understand that there was no way Multichoice would have poured huge funding on a product they haven’t assessed its viability and attractiveness to generate future benefits to them.
Like I mentioned before that investment and ROI go hand in glove.
There is an idiom that says: opportunity knocks but once, meaning opportunities are very precious in life and we have to handle them with care. We have an opportunity to right our wrongs by taking the move made by the SRC to work on our football matters and no need to rush as long the solutions won’t solve our perennial problems.
We shouldn’t look much into the suspension with sad faces but should see an opportunity to weed out the bad apples before they completely spoil the remaining good ones. Let’s not be blindfolded by the short gains we may get but let’s look at the future because we have more to come than what we have lost.
We have a lot of people with football brains but they are staying on the sidelines because they don’t want to tarnish their integrity and image by associating themselves with the circus in our football administration.
I would also implore the SRC to consult extensively before coming up with any conclusions as that would give every football stakeholder an opportunity to contribute to the good of the local game.
We hope for a better 2023 and beyond in our football fortunes.