Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor—
THE good times are certainly rolling for ZIFA and the Warriors these days. In yet another refreshing turn of events for the association and the senior national team, Harare businessman Wicknell Chivayo yesterday indicated that he will pay for the Warriors’ upkeep during their African Nations Championships campaign in Rwanda. Chivayo, who has become ZIFA’s new benefactor also pledged to buy Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa a brand new vehicle believed to be valued at $70 000 and crucially for the soccer mother body, the businessman revealed that he would now clear the balance over the Tom Saintfiet debt at the end of this month, guaranteeing Zimbabwe’s participation in the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Now these are certainly rare occasions for a football association whose image had over the years taken a severe battering and for a national team that had somewhat become accustomed to going on strike first in order to press for their bonuses and allowances and had to go without a proper meal at the peak of their problems.
It was, however, a refreshing sight yesterday as ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa hosted a luncheon for the Warriors at a Harare hotel where Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane and the Deputy Minister of Public Works and Social Welfare Tapiwa Matangaidze were also in attendance.
ZIFA board members Edzai Kasinauyo and Philemon Machana were also at the luncheon where Chiyangwa told the Warriors and other guests that Chivayo pledged to pay the players allowances and bonuses during the campaign.
Chiyangwa said the incentives were part of the million dollar sponsorship package unveiled by Chivayo for football. The ZIFA president last month announced that the funds would be released upon request by the association.
It emerged that Chiyangwa and Chivayo met in the capital earlier in the day before the ZIFA boss hosted the luncheon for his Warriors where he broke the good news about their incentives and that Pasuwa’s travel woes would with effect from next month be eased as he will be equipped with a brand new car.
“I met with the sponsor . . . the sponsor I am talking about is the guy called Wicknell Chivayo. He has said he is going to make available a brand new vehicle for the coach. This is going to happen early February.
“He is going to pay (Tom) Saintfiet before January 31. So Saintfiet is being paid off this month and the first week he will deliver the vehicle to ZIFA for use by the coach. He has made that undertaking.
“We are still discussing about the money that I want to give each and every person participating at CHAN . . . So by the time I go to the board meeting on Friday I will be able to tell the coach and the team how much money the sponsor is putting on the table.
“Furthermore we want to be able to conclude the coach’s contract as soon as possible so that in the contract — I’m telling Edzai who is doing the contract — to say that the coach will be given a vehicle for use by the association.
“So the issues of players allowances and bonuses will be announced and resolved,’’ Chiyangwa said. The efforts which the ZIFA president has made inside the first month of his tenure also received plaudits from Government with both Hlongwane and former Premier Soccer League chairman Matangaidze.
Hlongwane travelled to Maseru for the Warriors final CHAN qualifier against Lesotho and has been keenly following events in the senior team’s camp. The Minister was also vocal in his criticism of the ill-timed and ill-advised decision to fire Pasuwa which led to the coach’s reinstatement 48 hours later.
Yesterday, Hlongwane was beaming with excitement as he joined a happy national football family that has been pulling all the stops to motivate the Warriors ahead of their CHAN campaign where they would need to overcome Chipolopolo, the Eagles and the Cranes of Uganda in order to top Group D.
Hlongwane said the ministry will continue to rally behind the Warriors and urged the corporate world to play their part ahead of the team’s departure for Rwanda. The Minister said he has been impressed by the work ethic demonstrated by the new ZIFA board which was ushered in last month and pledged to travel to Rwanda to offer morale support for the rest of the tournament “if the Warriors win their opening tie against Zambia.”
“When I was appointed Minister of Sport and Recreation. One of the things I set out to do was to deal with the ZIFA issue. I was not happy with what was happening in football. “But if you read newspapers you notice these days I’m no longer commenting much on ZIFA. If I don’t comment it means I’m happy with what is going on.
“I think the very key element for development at ZIFA, which is stability, is now visible. Negative headlines in the newspapers are now a thing of the past. “This is something that we have been looking for all the time, somebody who can stabilise the ship because for us football is not just a game. For us football is not just a sport, football is an industry that is very important to this economy,” said Hlongwane.
“We should not be having unnecessary squabbles that disturb the grammar of the flow of the football industry. We want things to be flawless as so happens to be the case right now. “I am happy as the Minister with the work that you are doing to stabilise the ZIFA ship. I want you (ZIFA leadership) to work even harder. I want you to do even more and control all football in Zimbabwe,’’ Hlongwane said.
Matangaidze also said he was happy to see squabbles being pushed into the shade at ZIFA and challenged the corporate world to emulate the efforts that Chivayo has been making to help turn around the national game’s fortunes.