In January, 2019, the Warriors of Zimbabwe nearly ruined the whole 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals in Egypt after threatening to boycott their opening game against hosts, Egypt, over unpaid bonuses and allowances.
It was saddening too see the national football federation and its own players locked in whole night battles and, for that matter, in a foreign land over something that could have been resolved long back at home.
It is now close to two years since that debacle in Egypt, but some issues remain which threaten to trigger another war in future between the Warriors and those running the Zimbabwean game.
History has its own uses and what happened at Egypt 2019 should be used to shape out the future of the Warriors as Afcon 2019 heads for a climax while World Cup 2022 heads for kick-off.
It is true from what came out of the Egypt experience that one thing that is seriously lacking between the players and the football federation is respect and trust which needs to be restored.
In his letter to the Sports and Recreation Commission, captain Knowledge Musona stresses that the feeling within the Warriors is that Zifa does not have respect for them as the federation prefers to take care of other needs while ignoring the demands of the players.
It would surely be too much to expect Zifa to be perfect, but if by now the association has not yet paid players their outstanding dues for their participation at Afcon 2019, then something is wrong somewhere.
As the Warriors fight for a berth at Afcon 2021 and World Cup 2022, it would be wise for Zifa to clear whatever they owe the players now before qualifying action resumes to avoid repercussions when action begins.
What happened in the past are lessons for the future and to avoid those problems coming back again, Zifa should — like happens in cricket — come up with financial contracts and terms of agreement between themselves and all players called for national duty.
Thus, Zifa should not wait, and should enforce that right now starting with the team that is travelling to Cameroon for the Africa Nations Championships.
“These fights between the players and Zifa have been going on for some time. It is high time Zifa came out clear that national team players receive so much and after such a period. This avoids friction,” suggested former Dynamos chairman Simon Makaza.
It is good to play it safe because it would be cruel for the Warriors to go on industrial action before crucial games against Zambia or Botswana which could destroy out 2021 Afcon dream.
The Warriors should long before those encounters know how much is on offer in terms of bonuses and allowances and when to also expect those finances instead of playing a guessing game.
What Zifa should lay down as a contract agreement for the association and the players should not only be for the immediate assignments, but a long-term document that will be used by future national teams and future football associations.
Zimbabwean football has been torn apart for long by these battles between the players and the football federation and now is the time to get rid of these problems once and for all.
This is the time to clear the path for a good future relationship between Zifa and the national team players.
With Zifa and the players working in common purpose, even the 2022 World Cup dream can be realized. For a start, Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa do not look all that difficult.
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