On Friday, August 12, 2016, it sounded like a joke after the Zimbabwe women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, received an insulting $5 to take them home after arriving from the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
By MICHAEL KARIATI
At that time, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) threw stones at the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee (ZOC) contending that the Olympic body were in charge of all national teams and individuals who had taken part at the global sporting festival.
Zifa president Phillip Chiyangwa is on record claiming that the association had nothing to do with the pathetic $5 thank-you that was awarded to the women’s soccer team for their brave campaign against Germany, Canada and Australia in Rio de Janeiro.
Zifa were adamant that the ZOC, who are responsible for Olympic Games participation, were to blame for the circus that also saw the Mighty Warriors being stranded at the airport before being ferried into town in a school bus.
What is surprising is that despite the embarrassment that the $5 circus caused to Zimbabwe as a nation, nothing was done about the issue and up to now, nobody knows who was to blame, the ZOC or Zifa, or what exactly happened leading to the $5 offer.
In other countries, such actions would have been a big scandal and would have demanded the immediate resignation of the entire leadership of the sports body at fault whether it was ZOC or Zifa.
Alternatively, an investigation would have been instituted by the government on how a national team coming from such a big event as the Olympic Games could be stranded at the airport or be treated in such a manner.
The then Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane promised to take action over the comedy that ensued then, but that was just talk, and two years later, nothing was done, and now another circus of the same nature has come up.
Interestingly Hlongwane during his tenure at Sports minister failed to honour the pledge for housing stands made to the Mighty Warriors for qualification to the Rio Olympics and the Women Africa Cup of Nations two years ago.
Only six days ago, another chapter was added to that familiar story after this time, it was the same Zifa who gave the same Mighty Warriors a pathetic $5 to go home following their 4-0 two-leg win over Namibia.
What happened this time around makes it difficult to disassociate Zifa from what happened in 2016 as their handling of the Mighty Warriors looks very familiar to the way the same team was treated the last time around.
Zifa should look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves whether the manner they are treating the Mighty Warriors is the same way they are handling the Warriors or that they are looking down upon the women’s team.
What is even more disturbing is the fact that grants from Fifa meant for women football development – which could have helped in the Mighty Warriors cause – are being channelled elsewhere, instead of the intended beneficiaries.
What Zifa should be reminded is that the Mighty Warriors have done a lot for Zimbabwean football and Zimbabwean sport in general and deserve better treatment.
They are arguably the most successful Zimbabwe national football team in history following their qualification for the Olympic Games, the biggest sporting gathering in the world.
That is not all. They also qualified for the Africa Women’s Championships or the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals on the occasions in 2000, 2014, and 2016, the same times the Warriors have made it to the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
While the Warriors have failed to go beyond the group stages in all their three appearances at the Africa Cup of Nations, the Mighty Warriors can stand up to say, at least, they finished fourth in 2000 when the finals were held in South Africa.
On that premise, the Mighty Warriors are now a brand that Zifa can sell to the corporate world and find buyers. Sadly, though, there is nobody at the football headquarters with ideas of how to sell that brand and make the best out of it.
What is happening with the women’s football team right now is a recipe for disaster. Zifa should be warned that the sit-in that took place after the Namibia game poses a greater danger for the future, and could lead to their downfall.
The treatment Zifa has given this women’s team has made them stronger and united and they could resort to drastic action if their demands are not met in the games to come.
The national football federation should sort out the Mighty Warriors’ bonuses before the next game or else there could be disaster. The bomb is ticking towards explosion, and Zifa will have no one to blame but themselves should the women’s team bring them down.
This is just a warning.
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