Zifa presidential candidate Phillip Chiyangwa was just a patron and not administrator of the Chinhoyi football outfit that had been pointed out as one of the places the businessman had gained experience in the sport.
By Brian Nkiwane in Chinhoyi
A number of his challengers have been querying his involvement in football leadership.
Former Chinhoyi United officials and stakeholders confirmed in interviews last week that the flamboyant businessman was the team’s patron.
A storm of uncertainty and controversy surrounded Chiyangwa’s eligibility to run for Zifa office and threatened to derail his aggressive campaign as his history in football came under major scrutiny.
Former players, administrators and coaches of the now defunct Chinhoyi-based club confirmed Chiyangwa’s involvement in the club, but as a patron, back in the days.
This reporter on Wednesday visited Mashonaland West provincial capital Chinhoyi to try and unravel the mystery that shrouded Chiyangwa’s football background.
Former Chinhoyi United chairman, Stateson “Mukoma States” Mutsiyo, who happens to be Sungura musician First Farai’s father, said even at 60, he still remembered very well how Chiyangwa got involved in their project.
“First of all, I want you to understand one thing, the team was sponsored by the city council, but the city fathers pulled out, leaving the club to the community. So as the community, we wanted people with money to assist in the day-to-day running of the club. So it is during that time, 1993, that as board members we were introduced to Chiyangwa by Derrick Matapuri and Tapera Mutovido.
“After working with him for some months, we then decided as a board that he should be one of us, so we appointed him the patron of the team,” Mutsiyo said.
He added, “We worked with Chiyangwa from that time. At times he would ask for people to come to Harare for meetings. But our relationship folded when other guys like Matapuri and Mutovido decided to do their own project —Kurai FC.”
The man who was at the helm of Chinhoyi United from 1992 to 1997, however, said he had no problems with Chiyangwa taking over the hot seat at Zifa.
“He is such a good leader and I don’t see why many people doubt him. We have worked with him; we know what kind of a person he is and what he is capable of doing. I think he will be the immediate answer to the situation that we are facing right now.”
This reporter also caught up with Mutovido, who is now 38.
Mutovido is a former Chinhoyi United player who grew within the ranks of the team to be elevated to the position of the team’s organising secretary after hanging his boots.
Mutovido and two other guys then had to come up with their own project, Kurai Football Club after the Chinhoyi United project collapsed. He became one of the directors, together with Matapuri.
Asked how he knew Chiyangwa, Mutovido had this to say; “I have known Phillip Chiyangwa for a long time now, before he even became so popular like what he is today. It was Matapuri (Zifa Mashonaland West province chairman) and myself who lured Chiyangwa to come on board and assist us with funding. This was in early 1993. We then sat down with the entire board mid-season and saw it noble to appoint him our patron. So Chiyangwa was our patron from 1993 up to 1999 when some of us decided to take the other route of coming up with our own project. This is the time that Chiyangwa left to concentrate on his Citrus Farm team which he had inherited after taking over the farm but it was playing in Division Three,” Mutovido said.
“I think after gaining popularity from football, that is when Chiyangwa decided to join the political front. Many people did not know him at all. I remember at one point he had to take over the running of the female team, Chinhoyi Queens. After facing difficulties in raising money, Chiyangwa as the patron of the male team also adopted the ladies team which was playing in the Super League. Amai Mhishi should have been here to confirm this.”
Asked about Chiyangwa’s leadership qualities from the time they worked together and whether he was the rightful man for the Zifa top job, Mutovido said:
“I am a football administrator today because of him. He is one person who is very flexible when dealing with him. I started football administration as a young boy but I got guidance from people like him. I adopted his style of leadership which has helped me a lot even on the political front,” said the Chinhoyi Urban Ward One councillor.
Former Chinhoyi United gunslinger, White Makina aged (39), who heads Division One side Zatex and works as a supervisor at a supermarket chain in Chinhoyi, also confirmed having worked with the Harare businessman.
“I remember Chiyangwa coming to our home match for the first time in 1993 and we were all told that we were going to meet our new sponsor. We used to have problems in getting our allowances, but since the time he was introduced as the new sponsor, things improved. We would play knowing very well that we would get our few coins. He was not as popular as he is today and many people did not know him,” Makina said.
“I think he is a good guy. He would always take a back seat and let those in charge do their job. I think he is a good candidate for the post at Zifa.”
Standardsport also caught up with 1978 Soccer Star of the Year, Andrew “Amai Maria” Kadengu who coached Chinhoyi United during the era that Chiyangwa claimed he was part of the leadership. Kadengu coached Chinhoyi United from 1987 to 1997.
“All that I can tell you is that in 1993, cash flows improved, not knowing whether it was the arrival of Chiyangwa. I have known Chiyangwa since then, especially during the Zanu PF soccer galas. I was often assigned to lead Mashonaland West team each time there were Zanu PF competitions. So Chiyangwa and Patrick Zhuwawo would be there as well,” Kadengu recalled.
He added; “However, if he is really sure about the developmental plan that he outlined in his manifesto, then he is in the right direction; he is the man that we are looking for,” said the Mashonaland West Zifa board member development.
We also spoke to Constance Tagarira, now aged 49, one of the few surviving Chinhoyi Queens netball club players.
Tagarira poured her heart out about Chiyangwa. “Just after 1995, things became so hard that the council could not raise money for us to travel to fulfill our away fixtures. We knew Chiyangwa was the patron of our male counterparts, so we extended our begging bowl to him and it did not take him time to take us on board as a team. He helped us finish the season that year, buying uniforms, match balls and other requirements for us. He became the patron of the team before we left in 1999, the time Macdonald Chapfika of Highdon came in to assist us,” recalled Tagarira.
Responding to comments on his ineligibility to lead national football, Chiyangwa had this to say; “The thing is, whoever is busy trying to trace my football history looking along that angle is lost. I never used the years spent as an administrator at Chinhoyi United nor at Citrus FC to be where I am today. I never knew Five aside football could make me eligible. So after realising that, I had to present my experience based on Five aside football where I even went on to attend a World Cup event in Egypt as an administrator. I have been who I am in football because of commitment.”