LEGENDARY former Zimbabwe and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar might have travelled to Harare this week for different business ventures, but there is no way the Jungleman and football can be separated.
This has been buttressed by the fact that for all his various business meetings, Grobbelaar remains a face of football wherever he goes.
That Grobbelaar himself revealed that although he was in the country to explore investment opportunities, which his business partners could take up in Zimbabwe, he willingness to give back to the country’s game is a huge step in the right direction.
And as we report elsewhere in this edition, Zifa have since indicated that they are willing to embrace Grobbelaar and discuss football business with him.
We urge Zifa to take stock of the huge numbers of former players, some of whom may not be as legendary as Peter Ndlovu and Grobbelaar and forge partnerships with them.
It is incumbent upon Zifa to reach out to the ex-players and see how best they could utilise them in their post-playing careers.
If the stance taken by Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda and the association’s board member finance Philemon Machana is anything to go by then the local soccer mother body could be heading in the right direction.
The Zifa board pair, in welcoming Grobbelaar’s offer to give back to Zimbabwean football by assisting the association, said they would want more involvement by the national game’s legends beyond just Grobbelaar.
Most of the country’s former players have opted for what to them appears to be the easy route which is venturing into coaching with few taking up administrative and managerial positions.
But there is more to it in football than just coaching and it is incumbent upon Zifa and the former greats to forge strong partnerships and identify areas in which the legends could be of use and utilise the external contacts they have established while playing abroad to the best advantage of the domestic game.
World football controlling body Fifa and the Confederation of African Football have already noted the need to involve legends in the business of the game and have brought on board a number of the former players including Argentine great Diego Maradona.
If Fifa and CAF, who are anchored by massive sponsorship deals and a lot of technical partners, can see the wisdom of involving those that have played the game at the highest level in shaping the direction their football administration is taking, what of Zifa?
The former greats could be the face of Zifa on the international front working as Zimbabwean football ambassadors in official capacities.
There are many initiatives that Zifa needs to undertake to unlock the value in football especially in a global economy where it has become a billion-dollar industry.
Zifa have been struggling, seemingly without a clue to find ways to erase the $7 million legacy debt the association is saddled with and it is through various investment projects in which local football takes a business approach that the mother body could start having regular inflows into their coffers.
As it stands, Zifa have to wait for a big game for the Warriors at the National Sports Stadium backed by a good crowd for them to realise a massive inflow of money into their coffers.
In between, Zifa have had to rely on the levy they collect from the Premier Soccer League and the grants they get from Fifa.
Yet among the former players are some legends who have become successful business people with several ideas to turn around Zimbabwe’s football.
It is also imperative that those former players come out of their shells and avail themselves to Zifa and Zimbabwean football at large.
Bruce Grobbelaar has offered a start, but there are so many such former players whose list is endless, ex-players such as Benjani Mwaruwari, Henry McKop, Ephraim Chawanda, George Mbwando, whose ideas on developing the game and improving its systems should be embraced.
Perhaps a football symposium with former greats could be a starting point for Zifa and the legends to break the ice.
Closer to home, countries like South Africa have created opportunities for their legends to play a role in their national association and their Premiership and this can be done in Zimbabwe too.
It is not an insurmountable move as this is not reinventing the wheel.