BY MICHAEL KARIATI
The winds of change are blowing across the sport of athletics with former runners taking up influential positions in the sport’s governing body, the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe (NAAZ).
First it was Thabani Gonye who was elected the secretary-general of NAAZ and later on rose through the ranks into the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee board.
Now it is former 100 and 200 metres sprint king Partson Muderedzi who has been elected into NAAZ by virtue of being the new chairman of the Midlands Athletics Association board.
Muderedzi, who represented Zimbabwe at the 1988 Olympic Games — amongst many other international competitions — brings into NAAZ an athlete’s experience which will help the association to deal with problems that athletes face on a day-to-day basis.
Sadly, though, other sporting disciplines and in particular football are lagging behind in this regard and have been very resistant in having its own people run the sport they so much love.
This has seen businessmen or people with no football or sporting background taking over the leadership of the popular sport and the poor results have been there for everyone to see.
Football is now dominated by countless squabbles off the field of play and bad decisions which have seen little or no progress at all in terms of development.
In fact, since 1993 when Leo Mugabe ascended to power as Zifa chairman, football has been known mostly for infighting and miscalculated decisions than for events on the field of play.
Mugabe is believed to have used his close relationship with former state president Robert Mugabe to negotiate his way up the ladder although rumour says it was his financial pocket and willingness to give that swung the electorate to his favour.
Since then that “money for votes” trend has continued with people with dubious football history being brought on board, while former footballers have been systematically sidelined.
Some, however, have blamed the former footballers themselves for crying out loud in the background, but not taking up the initiative to challenge for posts as Muderedzi has done and as Gonye did as well as Kirsty Coventry at the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.
The only former footballers to have held influential positions were John Phiri and Benedict Moyo, both of whom were later on removed from the position of Zifa board member development, when they fell out of favour with those at the top.
Not forgetting former Zimbabwe Saints player Wellington Nyatanga, who held the powerful position of Zifa president as well as that of chairman of the Premier Soccer League (PSL).
Although Nyatanga’s reign was not all smooth sailing, his knowledge of football brought huge progress and peace between old foes, the PSL and Zifa.
The former Gweru United official was an example that given enough support, former footballers can run this sport effectively and efficiently and more importantly successfully.
Sadly, though, the other former players do not have faith in themselves and are also discouraging those who want to stand in next year’s Zifa elections, claiming they do not stand a chance.
No one wins the lotto without buying a ticket and there is nothing wrong in contesting even for the Zifa presidency. After all, an election is won or lost and there is no shame in losing.
It is hurting that there is not a single former player, coach or referee in the mainstream of football administration in Zimbabwe at a time they are desperately needed to try and rescue the sport.
Where is Ephraim Chawanda, Ephert Lungu, Alexander Maseko, Charlie Jones, Felix Tangawarima, Antony Mandiwanza, Bruce Grobbelaar, Agent Sawu, Japhet Mparutsa, James Takavada? They are needed in the Zifa council and Zifa board to give direction to our football.
Muderedzi, Gonye and Coventry have led the way and it is now up to those in football to follow suit instead of crying in the background when the sport is dying.
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