FIVE full months have now passed since ZIFA’s membership was suspended by FIFA owing to the administrative challenges that have crippled the smooth-running of the beautiful game in Zimbabwe.
It has been a very difficult period for the players and the majority of football loving Zimbabweans. Our beloved Warriors, the Mighty Warriors and their age-group national football teams have not been able to play international football during this period.
FIFA, in their statement of suspension of April 24, indicated that the Zimbabwean football authorities should put their house in order after the Sports Commission had stepped in, ostensibly with the noble intentions to address the chaos at ZIFA.
To FIFA, that was “third party interference” which most international sport organisations do not tolerate. But back home, almost everyone was in agreement that domestic football was dying a slow death because of years of mismanagement.
Apart from the stinking corruption that had come to be normalised under successive ZIFA administrations, football structures had collapsed and the infrastructure was non-existent.
Zimbabwe faced the ignominy of having our national teams play their home games in neighbouring countries after all the local stadia, including the National Sports Stadium, had been condemned by CAF. The running of the National Sports Stadium has since been transferred from the Ministry of Local Government to the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation.
There was no development to talk about, the refereeing was in shambles and the association had been mired in a constitutional crisis. Eventually, Zimbabwe could have been left with no football to talk about.
Above all, the ZIFA brand had been soiled such that it had become difficult for football to attract partners and sponsors despite commanding the largest following in the country.
The SRC, as the supreme sports regulator in Zimbabwe established under an act of Parliament, have often taken the flak as a toothless bulldog but this time they had the guts to confront the excesses in local football administration by suspending the Felton Kamambo board.
This is the move that has brought us where we are as a football nation. The suspension by FIFA has been painful. But we have received assurances from the Sports Commission that the future benefits would outweigh the current misery.
Since almost everyone was in agreement that domestic football needed fixing, they have managed to get buy-in from the majority of football-loving Zimbabweans.
So let us trust the process. The ZIFA Restructuring Committee which was set up under the SRC Act to drive the reform processes has been busy at work and should be done and dusted by the December 31 deadline.
This committee, comprising businessmen and technocrats, was given at least one year to carry out its mandate. So we trust they are doing a thorough job.
Among their terms of reference is the review of the outdated ZIFA constitution, to review and reform junior football structures in the country to ensure sustainable development of football at grassroots levels in the country, carry out a forensic audit of the finances of ZIFA, prepare the groundwork for fresh ZIFA elections and develop a strategic plan.
There have been calls for the committee to abandon its work and go back to square one by reinstating Kamambo, who has since been recalled by the ZIFA Congress.
A report from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation this week also pointed to the same. But in all fairness, Kamambo’s reinstatement is a constitutional issue, which neither the SRC nor Parliament has power over.
For the Restructuring Committee to just abandon the reform exercise at the moment does not sound like a good option, considering the urgent need for reform in Zimbabwean football, the time and resources invested and the ground covered so far in the reform process.
After all, there are under three months left before the expiry of the deadlines for the Restructuring Committee to wind up its business.
If anything, the Sports Commission and the Restructuring Committee must be given time to complete their mandate – considering Zimbabwean football has lost out on many opportunities this year due to the FIFA suspension – and then the Commission will be judged by the outcome of their restructuring exercise.