“I AM A VISIONARY, ZIFA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN, ZIMBABWE’S WORLD RANKING WILL BE AMONG THE FIRST 50,” — CUTHBERT DUBE, SPEAKING IN 2010.
THE BBC Focus on Africa programme reserved a segment, on Thursday night, to celebrate the return of Cape Verde into the top 50 of the FIFA world football rankings after the Atlantic Ocean islanders leapt 15 places up the global ladder. For a country that has only about 525 000 people, which did not qualify for the Nations Cup until their appearance at the 2013 AFCON finals in South Africa, the sensational rise of Cape Verde into a powerful football force has been one the game’s success stories.
It’s not the first time, though, that Cape Verde have been in the top 50, dining and wining with the most powerful football nations in the world, because — in the past five years — they have even been ranked as high as 33 on the globe by FIFA.
While Cape Verde continue to make giant strides, in world football, and have just pushed their way back into 41st place on the globe, our beloved Warriors find themselves stuck, outside the top 100 on the rankings, trapped among the game’s lightweights at number 109.
And, in that company of lightweights, we find ourselves grouped with the likes of Libya, a country devastated by civil war, Aruba, a tiny island on the south Caribbean sea of about 100 000 people, whose national team was even hammered 11-0 by Trinidad and Tobago, and St Kitts and Nevis, another small Caribbean island, who were thrashed 8-0 by Mexico.
There is a reason why Cape Verde is key in our assessment of the journey that we have travelled, as a national football team, in the past five years when we have been under the leadership of Cuthbert Dube, the Harare business executive who came on the scene promising to make us great once again.
“Once upon a time a regional powerhouse, the national team should reclaim their status of the olden days. My Board, through partnerships with corporate and Government, shall ensure that strong national teams are put together through a sound technical system,” Dube thundered in his glossy manifesto, ahead of the ZIFA elections in 2010, arguing why he was the best man to be the game’s leader.
“Our national teams have failed since 2006 to qualify for CAF and World Cup competitions as a result of poor preparations, inconsistent technical systems, poor funding and half-hearted performances, among other reasons.
“A team that qualifies for such grand events does the nation proud in terms of business, marketing and nation profile-building.”
Just six months after Dube was granted his wish to take over as ZIFA boss, in March 2010, Cape Verde rolled into town, for a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier and — after we settled for a goalless draw with them at the National Sports Stadium — there was an outcry in this country as to how our Warriors could sink so low as to be held at home by such minnows.
Of course, the build-up to that game had not been made any easier by a bungling ZIFA leadership that tried to smuggle Tom Saintfiet, into the technical set-up of the Warriors, and such was their stupidity, camouflaged in their desperation, they even let him start work without a work permit, violating our immigration regulations.
Five years later, the ghost of Saintfiet, who was deported after working for just one day, continues to haunt us and FIFA have issued an ultimatum that ZIFA have to pay the Belgian gaffer $180 000, by the end of this year, or our Warriors could be booted out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
When you consider that Saintfiet just coached the Warriors for a day, the comical shortcomings of our football leaders, especially in the past five years under Dube’s watch, are put into perspective and that he is still leader of the national game is, at best, an insult to its constituency and, at worst, an aberration.
But, as the ZIFA Congress meets in Harare today, to discuss a motion that could revoke the mandate they gave Dube to be their leader, the third time they have tried to topple him in the past five months, the way the Warriors and the Blue Sharks of cape Verde have travelled, in different paths, in the past five years, underlines how much our football leaders have let their game down.
In October 2010, when the Warriors were held to a goalless draw by Cape Verde in Harare, it sparked a national outcry as this country wondered how its national team could be held, in our fortress, by these Blue Sharks who were considered minnows on the international football front.
Dube’s reign, as ZIFA president, was six months old and we were all glued to what he had promised us in his manifesto, giving him the benefit of doubt, and saying that he needed more time to make his presence felt.
“I have a burning desire to help rebrand our game,” he had told us in that manifesto. “I have a traceable record as a turnaround strategist. I have won many local and international awards for excellence in business practice.
“I AM A VISIONARY. ZIFA WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN UNDER MY LEADERSHIP. ZIFA WILL REGAIN ITS LOST PRIDE. ZIMBABWE’S WORLD RANKING WILL BE AMONG THE FIRST 50.”
Five years down the line, it’s Cape Verde, the country we mocked as lightweights who had no right to march into Harare and steal a point from us, who find themselves among the world’s top 50 football nations.
Well, as for us, we are still outside the top 100, having plunged — at one stage — to as low as number 129, Cape Verde have been to the last two Nations Cup finals, even qualifying for the quarter-finals at the 2013 AFCON showcase, while our Warriors have tried three times, under Dube’s watch, and failed on each occasion.
Exactly five years ago, in October 2010, we were mourning, as a nation, in a tough post-mortem as we cried for the two points we had dropped at home against Cape Verde, wondering how it was possible that we had drawn against these Blue Sharks in our backyard and kicking ourselves for derailing our quest to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup finals.
Our football leaders, having won an election six months earlier, told us that we shouldn’t cry, everything would be fine, we simply needed to give them time to impose their ideas on the game, and the tears that we were shedding would soon be a thing of the past, replaced by smiles and happiness, as we toasted the success of our national game.
Exactly five years later, in October 2015, we are worse off, as a football nation, than what we were in October 2010 and no country, in this world, underlines how much it has progressed, during that period, while we have gone in the wrong direction, than Cape Verde — the team we played five years to this month when they were still minnows of this game.
OUT OF THE WORLD CUP WITHOUT KICKING A BALL
When Dube promised us, five years ago, that he was the Messiah who would not only transform us, into a top 50 football nation in the world, dizzy heights that we last scaled when Reinhard Fabisch was our coach and the Dream Team were giving us an identity that made us feel proud and honoured to be Zimbabweans, we believed him.
He looked different, this laid-back business executive who pointed to what he had done at PSMAS as an example of his genius as a turn-around strategist, and he was a popular choice for the ZIFA presidency, winning it by a country mile, as he defeated his only serious challenger, Leslie Gwindi.
But, after five years in which we have been given an opportunity to have an up-close-and-personal look at Dube, when his indifference to the challenges that are affecting our national game — including a sickening habit of not even coming to watch the national teams, let alone the domestic teams — have made a lot of people question his commitment to the game, it has become clear that he might not be the Prince that beloved sport was looking for to provide the salvation.
For goodness sake, we are out of the 2018 World Cup, without kicking a ball, the only African nation who will not be playing in the qualifiers, because — somewhere along the way — our football leaders failed to manage a payment plan, to extinguish a $60 000 debt owed to Valinhos, over a five year-period.
Even when the Premier Soccer league provided that $60 000, so that it should be paid to Valinhos to save our World Cup campaign, ZIFA decided that the money, which they had asked the top-flight league to release in an SOS call to ensure we would not be kicked out by FIFA, would be better used by settling a debt at Pandhari Lodge.
When they had to make a decision, either to save our World Cup campaign or their furniture which had been attached from 53 Livingstone Avenue by Pandhari Lodge over an unpaid debt, our football leaders decided that the World Cup wasn’t a priority.
Even the fact that the money had been released, for the sole reason that it should save our World Cup campaign, was ignored and rather than it being transferred into the coffers of Valinhos’ lawyers, it was channelled elsewhere, they say into the bank accounts of Pandhari Lodge, even though they have not provided any bank transfer proof to support that.
But, then, a leader who hasn’t attended even one competitive Warriors’ game, either at home or away from home since he took over as boss of our game, is unlikely to be touched by the importance of a World Cup campaign, is unlikely to feel that the absence of our players in the qualifiers is anything to write home about and, barricaded inside the walls of a Groombridge mansion, which has been his home, his ZIFA office, the be-all-and-end-all of his life, issues about a campaign for a place in Russia are likely to be a distraction.
Of course, our dear leader has led us to a place where we are now as good, if not as bad, as Aruba, an obscure nation in world football, and given that he doesn’t feel that is alarming, he somehow still believes we are still on the right track even when we are now ranked as lowly as St Kitts and Nevis, and all that he talks about is the money that he has sunk into the game, rather than the value that he has added, his indifference to our plight is legendary.
He might survive today’s coup, football has always been known to throw a lot of surprises, but that victory will just be another dagger plunged into the heart of a game that has been dying, while the man who is supposed to revive it, looks elsewhere.
IF I WAS CUTHBERT, I WOULD USE BLATTER’S RESIGNATION SPEECH AS A TEMPLATE
“I have been reflecting deeply about my presidency and about the 40 years in which my life has been inextricably bound to ZIFA and the great sport of football. I cherish ZIFA more than anything and I want to do only what is best for ZIFA and for football.
“I felt compelled to stand for re-election, last year, as I believed that this was the best thing for the organisation. That election is over but ZIFA’s challenges are not. ZIFA needs a profound overhaul.
“While I have a mandate from the membership of ZIFA, I DO NOT FEEL I HAVE A MANDATE FROM THE ENTIRE ZIMBABWE FOOTBALL FAMILY — THE FANS, THE PLAYERS, THE CLUBS, THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE, BREATHE AND LOVE FOOTBALL AS MUCH AS WE ALL DO AT ZIFA.
“Therefore, I have decided to lay down my mandate at this extraordinary general meeting of the ZIFA Congress. I will, from today onwards, not continue to exercise my functions as ZIFA president.
“Since I am no longer, and I shall not be a candidate, for the ZIFA presidency at the next elective Congress, I feel free that I am not been haunted by the constraints that elections inevitably impose, For years, we have worked hard to put in place administrative reforms, but it is plain to me that while these must continue, they are not enough.
“It is my deep care for ZIFA and its interests, which I hold very dear, that has led me to take this decision. I would like to thank those who have always supported me in a constructive and loyal manner as president of ZIFA and who have done so much for the game that we all love. What matters to me more than anything is that when all of this is over, football is the winner.”
To God Be The Glory!
Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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