Good start Phil, but it’s game on

Good start Phil,  but it’s game on Philip Chiyangwa
Philip Chiyangwa

Philip Chiyangwa

Andy Hodges Special Correspondent
JUST more than a month into the hot seat as ZIFA president, amid thunderous voices that questioned whether he was the right man for the job, Philip Chiyangwa has certainly moved mountains.

He has surprised even some of his harshest critics who predicted Armageddon when he took over. Of course, it’s still early days yet and the real test is yet to come.

But there is no doubt that the Harare businessman has doused the fires that were threatening to engulf our national game and stabilised a sporting discipline where chaos had become part of its DNA.

However, as we celebrate what has happened in the past month, it will be unfair to forget the support that our game got from Prophet Walter Magaya, when our football needed it most, during the last months of the leadership whose mandate was revoked by the Councillors.

As we embrace the arrival of new financiers like Wicknell Chivayo, who has pledged $1 million towards ZIFA, we must also not forget people like Magaya who were in the trenches and helped our football when all the structures were in danger of collapsing.

The financial injection that he gave to the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors was just incredible and his passion for our football provided light in that darkness. The Warriors are an important team to us all, whether one lives in the Diaspora or is at home, and they are the one team that makes us all remember we are proud Zimbabweans.

I will be glued to whatever I can following our boys’ progress at the CHAN tournament and let me make it clear that, although we are worlds apart, we will be together in spirit.

If they can bring the cup home, we will all celebrate and that is my prayer. My only concern is that all the fixes have resolved around money and while funds are an integral part of football, there are some fundamental structural deficiencies in how football in Zimbabwe is managed, run, organised and maintained.

And, fixing this, will show us if the choice of our ZIFA president was inspired or a non-event.

I do, of course, acknowledge that Philip has plunged into the assignment with sleeves rolled up and although silly mistakes were noted in his report card, for the first month in office, it was still a pass and that means a lot.

But, for me, the hard work starts now and we need to see the:

Auditing of the association

Rewriting of the constitution

Shaking up of the council to inject new blood

Long-term plans being actioned to revamp and support women’s football

Putting in place of countrywide structures to build an efficient well run junior and development programme to produce our future stars for the next 50 years

Building on the excellent work being done by my friends Twine, the PSL Board of Governors and particularly, Willard Manyengavana and his executive in the Northern Region to create a vibrant professional, competitive league structure geared at remunerating players, staff and coaches, but also retaining our best talent inside Ziimbabwe and not, season after season, losing our top talent across the Limpopo, 90 percent of whom do not succeed and return home within a year

Overhauling of the ZIFA Secretariat and here, I must apologise as Jonathan Mashingaidze is and has been, my friend for over 15 years, but sorry brother, I believe that replacing you and re-assigning you in favour of an individual whose brief would be to action the board’s plans is a matter of national importance. We need a change manager, a driver, incorruptible and a man of his word with high integrity to run the secretariat

Integration of school football into the national plan

Establishment of Under-9, Under-13, Under-15 and Under-17 competitive leagues in each region in which the Premier League and Division One teams participate

Rebranding of our football

These are just a few of the immediate things that need attention and some are short term, others long term, but each needs the right person, on the board.

Football needs sustainable, long-term multi-faceted sponsorship to survive at all levels, such sponsorship sustains the improved pay structures of players, the administration and professional management of all the structures and, as a result, the game grows and becomes self-sustaining.

Football needs to give value back to its sponsors, it should never tarnish the sponsors’ reputation and should be run by people of high integrity and, if that happens, sponsors will flock to bankroll it. The problem is that this is the end result we all want and if you also think that way, I think you will understand, Mr ZIFA president, that the hard work has not yet started.

Remember it will not be what you do in public, or in front of the media, which will fix our game, but the things you will need to do behind the scenes, which we may never know about, which will shape your destiny.

Andy Hodges is an international banker based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and is a former chairman of CAPS United who helped transform the Green Machine into a championship-winning team in 2004 and 2005.

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