Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa promised the world when he campaigned for the top post last year as Zimbabweans looked for a clean break from the tainted Cuthbert Dube era, but eight months into his reign, local football is still in the doldrums.
THE STANDARD COMMENT
The grim state of the game was laid bare at the Harare International Airport on Friday when the women’s senior national team arrived back home after taking part in the Rio Olympic Games.
Zimbabwe did not win a single match at the event that is still underway in Brazil, but they left the world in awe with their never die spirit.
For starters, the Mighty Warriors were badly prepared for the tournament after Zifa failed to arrange meaningful friendly matches for the team in the run-up to the tournament and it was a miracle that they only conceded 15 goals.
That they scored in every game they played against the world’s highest ranked teams such as Germany, Canada and Australia speaks volumes of the women’s dedication and the pride they had in representing their country.
But the treatment they received on arrival back home was a disgrace. According to media reports, players based in Harare were only given $5 for transport while those travelling out of town were given $15 each before they were sent home.
To make matters worse, there were no Zifa officials at the airport to receive the delegation and supporters had to scramble for money to organise lunch for the players.
Chiyangwa predictably issued a statement later heaping all the blame on the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC), saying they were responsible for the team’s welfare.
However, if Chiyangwa and his Zifa board knew what their mandate was, the least they could have done was to be at the airport to welcome the team.
If indeed ZOC had come short, Zifa should have had Plan B to save the situation and seek redress with the committee later, but that did not happen.
The players rightly felt abused by the association and Chiyangwa should have apologised instead of issuing a patronising statement.
Friday’s debacle at the airport exposed the Zifa president for what he is — a loud mouth failure who is taking Zimbabwean football to the gutter.
Chiyangwa cannot claim credit for the success that has been recorded by the Warriors and Mighty Warriors in recent months because he has not done anything tangible to improve the game.
Zimbabwe still cannot participate in junior continental events because Zifa is too broke to bankroll their trips across Africa, yet when Chiyangwa was canvassing for votes, he claimed that he would rectify the situation after taking office.
Zifa is drowning in debt and the new leadership’s only solution to that albatross around our necks is to change the association’s name.
Chiyangwa must have serious introspection about his role in the demise of the local game and stop shifting blame to other institutions that can only play a facilitative role in transforming local football.
In his rambling statement on Friday, he claimed that the Mighty Warriors would be given their money and housing stands tomorrow, but that is besides the point.
What was more important was the moral support on the team’s arrival because it would have shown them that the association appreciated their efforts and sacrifices.
The reaction by Chiyangwa appears to be an afterthought following a backlash on social media by football lovers who couldn’t believe that Zifa behaved so irresponsibly.
We would like to take this opportunity to salute the Mighty Warriors and other Olympians who flew Zimbabwe’s flag high in Rio.
Zimbabweans appreciate your sacrifices and loyalty to the country.