Rest in peace local soccer

With Itai Dzamara

SO Rafiq Khan has not gone? The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) chairman probably still believes, or hopes, he has something to offer the local soccer governing body. <
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He is probably of the view that he still needs more time to implement his policies or extricate the troubled soccer association from its myriad problems.

He recently said he would remain in office because he is not a coward who leaves a burning house. But I believe it is worse cowardice to claim to have chosen not to be a coward when you can’t deliver.


I still believe Khan must have fulfilled his promise to step down if he undertook self-criticism, which must have produced no other result but that he failed to turn around the fortunes of Zifa.


I have no doubt if he did this self-criticism at the end of last year, he came up with nothing but shame, glaring failure and uncertainty over the future.

A friend asked me what had inspired my argument in the last edition of this column for 2004 when I bid farewell to Khan after concluding he would definitely have to quit.


Khan promised in May last year that he would step down from the Zifa top post at the end of the year if his self-criticism showed he had failed to turn a new page for the soccer governing body.


I was inspired by what all along I perceived to be a different personality in Khan compared to the likes of former Zifa chair-cum-politician Leo Mugabe or a certain Ignatius Pamire who once attempted to impose his leadership at troubled Dynamos. I had perceived Khan to be a different breed — honest and realistic.


I am not now implying he is the contrary of the abovementioned virtues. But I am lost. I was sold a dummy, I should say, by Khan. It now appears his is a case similar to that of Zimbabwe Cricket chairman Peter Chingoka.


The cricket boss had all along given me the impression that he was a gentleman, that all was well in local cricket under his able leadership inspired by rationality and professionalism.


Certainly I can’t continue to hold Chingoka in such high esteem following what has just passed to be probably the worst year in local cricket fraught with administrative bungling, squabbling, poor performances by the national team and, more seriously, allegations of racism.


And I should say it was always exciting but more confusing when Chingoka talked, again and again, about a “third force bent on destroying cricket” or blamed us and the other media for the deepening crisis in cricket.


By the way, I hope the Zimbabwe Cricket leader has some time out and is ready to face the growing number of dissenting voices from all provinces seeking his ouster. Keep watching this space.


Now, here is Khan. He has failed to do what I ardently believe realists should do, which is to acknowledge the truth and step down in order to allow the rebuilding of the soccer fraternity.


I should be saying Happy New Year and welcome to 2005 to both Khan and Chingoka but, honestly, it would be hypocrisy because I have no doubt both men are entering another year of headaches, crises and sleepless nights. All because of their decision to cling on against all odds.


The two respective sporting disciplines they still want to govern remain the worst victims.


Nobody should be hoping that the year could be better by any standards for Khan, and inversely local soccer after he has instead sent a bold statement that he is another comrade handiende (I won’t go). It emerged this week that Khan, together with his two colleagues on the Zifa board, Wyatt Mpofu and Remigio Makoni, manipulated constitutional reviews for them to remain in power at the forthcoming elections.


Sounds familiar? Reminds us of a number of personalities both in sports and political circles. There must be no prizes for enunciating what such actions have, and are likely to cause.


Just try to remember the case of a certain southern African country!

And it appears there is a plot involving the ineffective Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC). Other reports suggest the about-to-go Minister of Education, Sports and Culture Aeneas Chigwedere gave his blessings to another year of rot and chaos in sports administration by endorsing that there shouldn’t be leadership renewal at either the SRC or Zifa.


So we have Chigwedere, who should have gone long back, giving another term to the SRC leadership that should have resigned in shame and which in turn says stay on to Khan and company despite them having achieved nothing.


It can’t be any worse for our sports, especially soccer for which hopes of a revival were high at this stage.


I still insist Khan should have resigned. The longer Khan remains there and uses whatever tricks to stave off coups and dissent, the longer current and well-understood problems in local soccer persist! In other words the initial step towards rebuilding local soccer must be removing the lid on the boiling pot.


And in the case of soccer, the lid is the current leadership at Zifa, of course headed by Khan, which purports to be running the sport when in reality it is about daily struggles with the same problems. It’s a vicious cycle.


For example, just try to remember the number of stories you have read or heard about Zifa — even before Khan — wanting to restructure, wanting to go on a sponsorship drive, hoping to clinch a lucrative deal or to launch a multi-billion dollar tournament.


But I have no doubt that no substantive sponsorship will find its way to soccer this year, once again. And the reasons are the same — power struggles, which breed chaos and underdevelopment.


Given a highly likely persistence of economic problems as well as general elections in March, both of which will have adverse effects on the stability and development of soccer, the year looks bleak.


It will take soccer administrators up to six months embroiled in the controversy about Khan and his colleagues clinging onto power. Brace for several episodes in the courts over this matter!And that will give room for the Dynamos saga to once again dominate the headlines, all for the wrong reasons. It will leave no room for the problems surrounding national team sponsorship and performances to end. There will be nobody to attend to these problems!


Certainly the chaos will also suck in the top-flight Premier Soccer League and other leagues.


Nobody would put their $1 billion for the re-branding exercise at Zifa!

And another year will pass, of local soccer bleeding to death. It won’t be long before we write an epitaph on the grave of local soccer and among names such as Leo Mugabe and others’ would be a once promising Rafiq Khan as the characters in the tragic play.


Rest in peace the beautiful game; cricket is leading the race to join you.

dzamarai@yahoo.com

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