Editorial Comment: Tranquillity in football will grow the game Sunday Chidzambwa

IN the past few weeks, we have seen an unusual, but welcome, tranquillity in the boardrooms of the leadership of domestic football.

After months of anarchy during which the country was fed on a daily dosage of the madness that comes with their in-fighting, we have seen a semblance of calm.

Headlines on back pages of local newspapers have shifted from the ugly battles, between ZIFA leaders and COSAFA boss Philip Chiyangwa, which dominated much of the coverage.

Instead, the messy boardroom fights, which started in November and reached a climax in January, have been replaced by stories about people who should dominate those pages.

The footballers, themselves, who are the stars of this sport, the people the fans pay to watch in action, the ambassadors who represent us when it comes to our national team commitments.

Readers are now getting to know more about issues related to their stars, like how much France-based forward Tino Kadewere earns per week, month and year and the foundation which England-based star Marvelous Nakamba has set up to identify and nurture the next generation of the country’s star footballers.

It’s a refreshing change from the weeks when all that the readers saw on the back pages were boardroom battles, the ugly things which the ZIFA leaders were saying against Chiyangwa and what the COSAFA boss would say in response to those attacks.

It was just messy, to such an extent that when the two parties needed each other, to try and fight in one corner, as the country battled to have the Warriors play their 2021 AFCON qualifier against the Desert Foxes of Algeria at home, instead of on foreign soil, we saw the tension and the split at a time when unity was needed.

Then, there were those ugly threats, which spilled into the courts of law, and provided a graphic illustration of the deep divisions that existed between the two groups.

Refreshingly, we have seen encouraging signs that suggest the tension appears to be diffusing and this has opened a window where footballers, the real stars of this game, can occupy their space as dominant news-makers of the game once again.

We have always argued that the boardroom battles, which have become part of the DNA of how domestic football is governed, have never been good for our football.

These battles are the reason why our football, despite all the potential it has shown, remains stuck in a quagmire because those who have been tasked with managing it, now and again, have concentrated on petty fights, in efforts to consolidate their power, rather than providing real value to the sport.

We have produced good players over the years, but our Warriors have never gone beyond the group stages of the AFCON finals and, for 23 years after Independence, we failed to qualify for Africa’s biggest football festival.

Our biggest rivals to the north and south, Zambia and South Africa, have both found a way to win the AFCON title, but our boys have always struggled to make even an impression, at the tournament, with the Warriors finishing bottom of their group the last time they were at the tournament in Egypt last year.

For us, the difference between making the giant leap towards greatness, and remaining as one of the lightweights of African football, despite all the potential that we have among our battery of footballers, can be found in the way we were let down by the people we tasked with managing our game.

That’s why our Warriors faced countless problems when they arrived in Egypt, for the 2019 AFCON finals, resulting in countless battles with the ZIFA bosses over unpaid allowances, promises that were not fulfilled and all sorts of distractions which, in the end, meant they didn’t have the right mentality to fly our flag as high as they could.

Now that we are seeing a semblance of tranquillity in the boardroom of our football leaders, it is our hope that this is not only temporary, but this will be what is the way things will be, for a long time, so that all efforts are put into the development of our game.

We also urge the ZIFA bosses to consider tapping into the expertise, gained by such people like Sunday Chidzambwa, who announced this week that he had brought the curtain down on his years as a head coach, to help them in the way they run the game.

While Chidzambwa, the most successful coach ever to emerge from this country, spent years in the trenches of training, shaping and leading teams from the frontline of the touchline, there is no question that he has gained a lot of knowledge about how this game should be run.

We have seen such partnerships being forged in other countries, with a number of success stories being written, and that’s the reason why Manchester United have kept Sir Alex Ferguson, the club’s most successful coach, to keep providing guidance to the team’s leadership even in his retirement years.

And, that is also the same reason why FIFA bosses decided to bring someone like Arsene Wenger, a man with a wealth of experience, into their ranks so that he can advise the world football leaders of how they can make a difference in taking football to the next phase.

People like Chidzambwa know a lot and their expertise should be used to help our football move forward.

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