REVELATIONS in this newspaper this week of a culture of corruption in the way player transfers are handled in the domestic Premier Soccer League have shocked the country’s football community and, once again, thrown into the spotlight the link between our national game and dirty deals.
On Thursday, we revealed that ZPC Kariba coach Godfrey Tamirepi and his cartel, in which amateur footballer and middleman Conrad Nyambabvu has been featuring prominently, are at the centre of an investigation by the club’s sponsors over a number of questionable deals.
These include, but are not limited to, inflated transfer fees for players, coming into the ZPC Kariba fold, in a well-choreographed operation in which the masterminds would dupe the sponsors and then share the proceeds from their loot.
They would strike an agreement with the targeted player, and his agents, and tell them that they should inflate the transfer fee and, the difference between the original cost of the transaction and the money which would eventually be paid by the club, would then be shared by this group.
For example, if a player was going for $8 000, the group would hatch a plan where his transfer fee would be blown to about $15 000 and, with the coach and other executive committee members being part of the rot, the sponsors would pay that inflated price.
That would leave $7 000 to be shared among those who hatched this scam with money being moved through the EcoCash platforms of relatives, and even girlfriends, before it landed at the hands of the bigwigs who hatched this scam.
It’s sad that some people, who were entrusted by ZESA Holdings, who are the principal sponsors of ZPC Kariba and have spent a considerable fortune to bring football to the resort town, have abused their authority to transform themselves into monsters who were just there to enrich themselves.
We have always wondered why a club, which is well sponsored and one of the most stable teams in the domestic Premiership, has suddenly lost its way in the championship race in the last five years after coming within just one win of being crowned champions in 2014.
In that season, before this rot crept in, ZPC Kariba defied the challenges of playing most of their home matches away from their base because ZIFA felt Nyamhunga Stadium still needed to be renovated to host Premiership games, and after 29 of the 30 league matches, were in pole position in the race to be champions.
All they needed was to beat CAPS United, in their final game of the season, for them to be champions or, better still, even hope that — in the event they fail to defeat the Green Machine — Dynamos would collapse against How Mine in the Glamour Boys’ final match of the campaign.
But, on a dramatic finale to the season, CAPS United turned on the power to beat ZPC Kariba 3-2 at the National Sports Stadium while DeMbare found a way to get past How Mine 2-0 at Rufaro and, just like that, the championship had been snatched from the arms of the gallant side from Mashonaland West.
However, since reaching those heights, ZPC Kariba have lost significant ground and finished 10th in the championship race in 2015, winning only nine games, and were 23 points adrift of champions Chicken Inn and only nine points better than the last relegated side.
The following season, the Kariba side finished 18 points behind champions CAPS United and, in 2017, they completed the championship race 27 points behind champions FC Platinum with the gap increasing to 32 points last year when Tamirepi and his crew were in charge.
It’s sad that such malpractices, by some selfish individuals, end up frustrating sponsors who are keen on developing sport and they are left asking themselves, once again, if it was worthwhile to invest in the game.
The actions of just a few corrupt elements end up painting a very bad picture of the game and, as we reported yesterday, there are fears that the cartel which had been ripping off ZESA Holdings at ZPC Kariba, could have spread its tentacles to other clubs in the Premiership.
Every club now, especially those who are bankrolled by the big corporate entities, will be looking at themselves to see if they did not fall prey to these individuals and whether, when they were told that this player cost this much, this wasn’t just another scam to defraud them.
We also hope that ZIFA, as the custodians of domestic football, will also look into this sorry affair because they have a responsibility to protect the integrity of the game from such malcontents and ensure that every transaction is above board.
The PSL leadership of Farai Jere and his board should also play a proactive role in all this, because they have a responsibility to protect their brand and, more than anything, they need the presence of such heavyweight sponsors like ZESA Holdings to remain part of the league.