HIS victory that saw him become the most powerful man in Zimbabwean football elicited mixed emotions from the success-starved Zimbabwean football lovers.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
In earnest, it was a campaign that began as a mere social media joke which uncannily turned out to be a reality.
While sceptics pointed to his checkered record as an administrator, politician and businessman, the optimists believed he was the right man to turn around Zimbabwe’s football fortunes which had hit rock bottom under the leadership of Cuthbert Dube.
“I promise to breathe life, confidence, integrity and big smiles back into Zimbabwe’s soccer,” read the last part of his moving election manifesto.
Today marks six months since Harare businessman and politician Phillip Chiyangwa received an overwhelming seal of approval from the Zifa electorate to land the biggest job in Zimbabwean football.
Chiyangwa, who put on an elaborate campaign strategy in the run-up to the elections, garnered 40 of the 57 votes, while his nearest rival, ex-Zifa chairman Trevor Carelse-Juul, won 13.
While winning the election was the easy part for Chiyangwa, fulfilling his much-vaunted Rebuild, Reposition, Restore manifesto has been an entirely different matter as his first six months in office have proven.
That Zimbabwe stands on the threshold of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Gabon – their first since the 2006 finals in Egypt – is something that Chiyangwa should be given credit for. Beside that feat, however, Zimbabwe’s football has in general, not changed much.
Below, Standardsport looks into some issues that PC – as Chiyangwa is known – promised in his manifesto.
At the beginning of his tenure Chiyangwa put into motion an effort to audit the financial books, as the first step towards settling the association’s ballooning debt believed to be at over $6 million.
However, the audit is yet to be carried out and last month, the Zifa offices at 53 Livingstone Avenue in the capital were raided again – something that had become the norm during the Cuthbert Dube era.
This time the messenger of court had come to attach the association’s property over a $23 000 debt owed to photographer Lazarus Riva by the previous leadership.
Zimbabwe was booted out of the 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers following Zifa’s failure to offset a salary debt owed to former coach Valinhos.
However, the Zifa executive committee led by Chiyangwa should be commended for moving swiftly to service the $185 000 debt owed to former Warriors coach Tom Saintfiet as it was threatening the team’s participation in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Only last week, Chiyangwa was quoted as saying the $6 million debt which he inherited is the reason why the Mighty Warriors and the national Under-20 teams had to break camp, to pave way for the Warriors camp, despite the fact that all the teams have crucial international engagements.
While PC was able to source sponsorship from controversial businessman Wicknell Chivhayo, he is yet to deliver on his promise to attract corporate sponsorship.
The Zifa president’s partnership with Chivhayo is puzzling in the sense that Chiyangwa says the maverick socialite is not a Zifa sponsor, but his own personal benefactor.
In February, the politician stole some thunder when he announced that Zifa had struck a multi-million dollar sponsorship deal that would see the country hosting a new competition called the Robert Mugabe Afro-Asia Intercontinental Tournament every year for the next eight years.
Chiyangwa signed an agreement with Total Sports Marketing chief executive officer Moinul Chowdury, involving outrageous amounts ranging from $40 million to $100 million between now and 2023.
To date, however, there is no indication that the deal will actually be set into motion as Zimbabwe football continues the unchanging cat and mouse relationship with debt collectors.
In April there were reports that the Zifa boss was close to sealing a $2 million package, which would see NetOne coming on board as the flagship sponsors of the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors, but no official announcement has been made so far.
When PC came into office, he promised the creation of a professional soccer players’ welfare fund that would guarantee salaries, create life, work, health and disability insurance policies for the same and guarantee special dispensation with the National Social Security Authority for sports programmes, given the short working life of professionals.
However, six months into his tenure, player welfare problems continue to hog the limelight, especially for the Rio Olympic Games-bound senior women’s national team, the Mighty Warriors and most recently the Young Warriors.
Reports that the national Under-20 players were each given $5 as transport allowances after their qualifier at home to Cameroon made grim reading.
Earlier, the team had been evicted from the lodge they had been booked in until Prophetic, Healing and Deliverance Ministries founder Walter Magaya came to their rescue. Magaya also reportedly paid the players’ allowances.
There were also reports of Mighty Warriors receiving $50 after their qualification for the 2016 Women’s Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon before the intervention of government which pledged residential stands for the team.
It seems the prioritisation of player welfare in Zimbabwe football remains a distant dream.
Chiyangwa also promised aggressive development of grassroots soccer structures and competitive corporate sponsorship for the Premier Soccer League, reserve league, first division, second division, third division and social soccerleague.
Maybe he needs more time to achieve all that and so the nation waits with abated breath, but so far there has been absolutely no movement in grassroots football to be credited to the Zifa president since he landed the top job.
With the national women team readying for a historic dance at the Rio Games, there probably has not been time to develop the women’s professional league structures to mirror the men’s leagues as enshrined in the manifesto.
Evidently, a novice in football matters when he started, Chiyangwa has actually exceeded the expectations of many a football fan despite his helter-skelter and unorthodox way of doing things.
Under him, all national teams have managed to fulfill all their international engagements, albeit barely, as in the case of the Under-20s.
He has managed to confound his naysayers to a greater extent and one shudders to think what he will pull out of the bag in the next six months.
In his own words: “I want to be judged by the results that we get on the field of play and if I fail to deliver results, I will resign.”