Senior Sports Reporter
ACTING ZIFA president Gift Banda has thrown his full support behind the reforms being undertaken by the Sports and Recreation Commission to bring sanity to domestic football administration.
Banda, who was recently ushered in to fill the void created by the revocation of Felton Kamambo’s mandate, urged local football stakeholders to embrace the “pain” that comes with the process.
ZIFA were recently suspended by FIFA for third party interference in the running of the association’s affairs after the Sports Commission had suspended the association’s board last November when they started the process of cleansing domestic football administration.
The Kamambo board faced a chain of allegations that included failure to account for public funds, poor governance, bribery and sexual harassment of female referees, among others.
Football administration in Zimbabwe had suffered years of deterioration and poor management.
The Sports Commission have since set up a Restructuring Committee led by Blessing Rugara. The nine-member committee is undertaking matters of a strategic nature, as outlined in their terms of reference, in line with the provisions of Section 21, 19(b), and 20 (c) of the SRC Act.
The committee’s term of office will run up to December 2022.
They have since begun rolling out a comprehensive programme that includes a stakeholder engagement process, discussing what they consider pertinent issues and also football development with several stakeholders.
But Zimbabwe have already begun to fill the pinch of isolation as the Warriors have been barred from taking part in all FIFA-approved competitions, including the upcoming 2023 AFCON qualifiers.
“I have noted the mixed reactions regarding the Confederation of African Football’s decision to bar Zimbabwe from participating in 2023 Total Energies African Cup of Nations qualifiers.
“Admittedly, it is painful that our country will, for the first time, not participate in the qualifiers of Africa’ flagship tournament,” said Banda.
“But it is of paramount importance to emphasise that there are a myriad of problems bedevilling our beautiful game and authorities have embarked on firm corrective measures to reform the game.
“These fundamental and deep-seated problems require the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in order to resolve them.”
Banda, who was a victim of the ugly football politics that had destroyed the game, said Zimbabweans should come together and work towards reforming the collapsed football structures.
The Bulawayo businessman returned to administration after he was summarily shut out for three years by fellow board members despite having been elected vice-president, and serving only one month of his four-year tenure.
“I am fully aware that there are some football officials, with vendettas, guided by personal rather than national interests, who had turned ZIFA into their fiefdoms.
“Despite all this, my appeal to them is to embrace the latest development and join everyone else in this mission to put our football first, in everything that we do, to breathe life into our national game.
“It is my considered view as the interim ZIFA president that the restructuring of football, no matter how painful it is, in the short term, will turn out to be good for our game, in the long term.”
Banda also hailed the progress being made by the Restructuring Committee and the continuous engagements between the local stakeholders.
The Committee is a key part of the strategic roadmap towards addressing the issues that have affected football management and administration in Zimbabwe.
It is made up of experts in various fields of administration, sports management, legal advisory and business management, and has the autonomy to discharge the functions more fully, independent of the Sports Commission, as set out in its terms of reference.
“In recent weeks, key football stakeholders have engaged with the restructuring committee in order to try and identify problem areas and, crucially, find solutions to those problems.
“We are happy that there is genuine goodwill and focus on cleaning, and stabilising our football which, in our humble view, is the most important thing right now.
“It is against this background that we have seen a positive development with the lifting of the suspension of ZIFA General Secretary, Mr Joseph Mamutse, whose return points to the new direction which has been made possible by these positive engagements with the Sports and Recreation Commission.
“The on-going forensic audit of our financial affairs is key and has been embraced fully by the leadership and is consistent with our ethos of accountability and transparency which should always be the DNA of our operations.
“We feel the pain of the fans, and our players, who have found themselves on the side lines, especially with regards to our absence from the qualifiers for the 2023 AFCON finals.
“But we also appeal to them to understand and appreciate that for us to prioritise participation in international tournaments, right now, when our house is on shaky ground, will not be beneficial for our football.
“I, therefore, appeal for patience and everyone involved in football to let the reform process take its course because, in the end, the mission will be for the benefit of all who are part of our beautiful game.
“Crucially, it will be for the benefit of future generations, our next generation of Warriors who, in the previous set-up, have found themselves on the side lines without being exposed to the international tournaments, of their age-groups, to help in their development,” said Banda.