Albert Marufu in LONDON
PREMIER Soccer League founding secretary-general Chris Sibanda hasn’t been feeling well as he recovers from the surgery he underwent early this year in the United Kingdom. Sibanda, who was the league’s secretary-general between 1993 and 1999, said he would have loved to attend the fundraising match for David “Yogi” Mandigora, being organised by United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean soccer legends, but cannot because of the illness.
“I have not been feeling well for quite some time now. I underwent an operation on February 4 this year and it took more than five hours,’’ he said.
“I have been going for a review almost every day save for weekends.
“The illness has also not afforded me a chance to work full time for my family.’’
Reflecting on the 25 years since the formation of the PSL, Sibanda, who was the league’s secretary-general from 1993 to 1999, feels proud to have been part of the process, but is not happy with the direction the league is taking.
“We wanted our league to be a mirror of the English Premier Soccer League, which is not run by the football association. Since we were the pioneering executive and still learning, I would say we succeeded in our objectives,” he said.
Sibanda was honoured together with the late Morrison Sifelani, Roger Muhlwa, Victor Zvobgo and others who were involved in the pioneering project when the PSL celebrated its 25th anniversary in Harare last Friday night.
“We achieved most of our objectives despite facing a number of challenges from ZIFA.
“I also have to admit that we also made a number of errors.
“I would raise my hand and admit that the decision to make title-chasing teams Blackpool and Dynamos play on different days was one such mistake.
“That was an oversight on our part because the two teams should have played on the same day and at the same time.
“Having said that, I have to tell you that this decision had nothing to do with favouritism at all because fixtures were decided a month before.
“These are some of the lessons drawn out of that experience. That was the learning process,” he said.
Sponsorship has always been a challenge for the league.
“There is money in football. I remember we had a problem with a broadcaster that wanted the clubs to pay it instead of the other way round.
“We had to protect the clubs and this resulted in the matches not being aired on either radio or television,” he said.
“We also experienced the abandonment of a number of matches because people were not happy with the referees’ decisions and that was very unfortunate.
“You do not see such issues in England or any other professional leagues,” said Sibanda.
He also paid tribute to former Warriors and CAPS United striker Friday “Breakdown” Phiri, who passed on last week.
“Friday is one such guy who loved his football.
“He never fought with anyone and may his soul rest in peace.
“I would have loved to attend Saturday’s fundraising match for David Mandigora being organised by former players in Birmingham, but I am not feeling well.’’
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association leader Eddie “Mboma’’ Nyatanga, who has just returned from Zambia, says Phiri’s loss was a big blow.
“He was a gentle giant, one of the best to ever grace our football and as a CAPS United fan, he was one of the stars who used to make my Sundays in the ‘80s,’’ said Nyatanga.
“It’s sad that he is gone but we should not forget those he left behind. As an association, we will also see what we can do to help the family.’’