SPORTS and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane yesterday said football is a national asset and there is need for the country’s representative teams to do better on the regional, continental and international scene.
Hlongwane has been meeting with national sports associations since he came into office and yesterday he visited ZIFA House where he met with the Association’s president, Philip Chiyangwa and his board members Edzai Kasinauyo, Philemon Machana and Felton Kamambo.
ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze was also in attendance.
Hlongwane commended ZIFA for the job they have done so far, but said the national association’s target should be podium-performance for the national teams.
“We are absent at the podium as far as Zimbabwe national football teams are concerned, it cannot continue because football in Zimbabwe, like I have said in the past, is a national asset,” said Hlongwane.
“You should see the emotions when people are listening to a commentary on a wireless radio in rural areas, it doesn’t matter whether he doesn’t have shoes, but he knows every player in the team.
“So football does galvanise that emotional unity in our country and, therefore, we need to deploy that energy in the positive direction, we need junior development so that you have a very strong team at the top.
“We need to fight corruption so that you have the best players on the pitch, this is very critical.
“If we continue to be absent from the podium we then begin to lose fans, look at what is happening to cricket. Cricket has continued to haemorrhage. We don’t want football to haemorrhage, we want football to develop and continue to unite Zimbabweans.”
He noted some areas he believes need improvement.
“We obviously made a lot of observations before the new board came in because at that juncture we were interacting a lot with the ZIFA secretariat so we could fill the void that was caused by the dissolution of the previous ZIFA board on the 3rd of October.
“One of the observations we made before the new ZIFA board came in, we think that you need to deepen the democratic process within the ZIFA structures as far as the electoral process is concerned, as far as constitutional matters are concerned.
“I think it doesn’t quite make sense that we have 58 people voting for football in Zimbabwe and I don’t need to elaborate that. You want to broaden the space, you want to deepen the democratic space and allow a lot more other players to be part of that process.
“It helps in terms of deepening the legitimisation of the process.
“The second observation we made is in relation to the ZIFA constitution. We think that the constitution has a lot of loopholes. Another point about the constitution is access to the constitutional document.
“It is very revealing for the football industry that ZIFA councillors must be able to be acquainted with the ZIFA constitution and what the document speaks to being able to interpret it.
“And you are going to be having an induction and I think that’s a key function of any national sport association to make sure that stakeholders, including the media by the way, are very clear about the processes,” said Hlongwane.
He said there was need for zero tolerance on corruption in football.
“I want you to have a zero tolerance to corruption in football, this is crucial. Why that is important is, if sport is to mean anything there must be fairness,” said Hlongwane.
“If there is no fairness then you are just watching a movie that is scripted somewhere, there is no play, you are watching an illusion basically.
“We need to deal with issues of corruption in several other facets as far as football is concerned, match-fixing is a critical point. In respect of this, we are going to be enacting a law that deals specifically with match-fixing so that anybody caught on the wrong side of match-fixing is taken to the courts of the land and they go jail.
“We are very clear about that.”
Hlongwane said conflict resolution was an important attribute for an organisation like ZIFA and urged the association to resolve issues internally to protect their brand.
Mashingaidze took time to appraise the Minister on various issues concerning the association including the organisation’s structures, their programmes as well as some of the challenges they are facing such as the squabbles that rocked women’s football.
Mashingaidze also spoke about plans to establish the National First Division League and were hoping to deliberate on the issue during their meeting with PSL yesterday.
“This is not yet in existence and today (yesterday) when we meet with the PSL we are going to discuss that issue to do with establishing this National First Division which will feed into the Premier League.
“Once that is established you will then find that it will be easy for us to have the National First Division divided into two zones — North and South,” said Mashingaidze.