Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
SUGAR CHAGONDA has become the first member of the ousted ZIFA board to break ranks with his colleagues by declaring he will abide by the Sports Commission’s decision to dissolve the country’s football leadership.
Chagonda has since urged his fellow members of the ousted ZIFA board to follow suit and put the interests of the game, in particular, and the country, in general, ahead of personal interests.
He has also sharply criticised the decision by some hardline members of the ZIFA board, who were sent packing by the Sports Commission on Monday evening, to flex their muscles and use referees as pawns, to paralyse the domestic Premiership, this week.
Bryton Malandule, who was in charge of referees, in the ousted ZIFA board, has been fingered as the man who ordered referees, across the country, not to take charge of the league matches, moments before they kicked off.
Malandule is believed to have been one of three members of the ousted ZIFA leadership who made the decision to instruct referees not to blow their whistles in the league matches.
Chagonda feels the impasse between the SRC and the ousted football leadership should have been resolved, in the boardrooms, without spilling into the fields, where it runs the risk of frustrating the sponsors of the top-flight league, the players and the coaches.
His statement also came on the day Kenyan Sports Minister, Amina Mohamed, who wielded the axe on the football federation in her country last week, held talks with FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura.
Amina described the virtual meeting as an “excellent consultative meeting between the Kenyan Government and FIFA Secretary-General Fatma Samoura,’’ and they will meet again next week.
Crucially, she said all the decisions made by the Kenyan Government, including the dissolution of their football federation, remain intact.
“All GOK (Government Of Kenya) decisions on football management remain in place and intact,’’ she said.
“Next meeting to be held in a week.’’
This means fears that FIFA’s reaction, to the decision made by the SRC, would only be to suspend Zimbabwe from international football, without even consultations with the local sports regulator, are unfounded.
It also means there will be a process, including engagements, between the two parties, before a decision is reached.
Chagonda said this was a time for cool heads rather than confrontation.
“Like any other institution or committee, nobody wants to leave office or the mandate they would have been given especially in public office by way of suspension or being fired,’’ he said in his statement.
“It is thus very unfortunate that our ZIFA executive committee, commonly known as the board, was on Tuesday 16 November 2021, suspended by the Sport and Recreation Commission.
“The SRC gave their reasons and in their statement, they also indicated that they had consulted before acting, which might suggest that their move has the blessings of the Government.
“As a result, it is my appeal to fellow ZIFA board members that we need to respect the SRC decision and take it on the chin.
“At law they are our sporting authorities as enshrined in the Sport and Recreation Act.
“As a football body, we can pursue some recourse through our international federation, which in this case is FIFA but as we may explore all such avenues, I would like us to respect the pronouncement made by the SRC.
“Personally, I have made it this known to ZIFA president Felton Kamambo and my colleagues, I do not believe in subverting the move taken by the Government of Zimbabwe through the SRC.’’
He described the move to bar referees, from executing their duties, during the midweek league matches, amounted to sabotage and he didn’t want to be part of the circus.
“I want to also categorically distance myself from any moves to sabotage any of the game’s structures, including the regrettable move to withdraw referees, from all Premier Soccer League matches,’’ Chagonda said in his statement.
“To me, that is synonymous with daylight witchcraft or sorcery.
“We were elected onto the ZIFA board on mandate to promote, develop and grow the game of football and as such we can’t destroy the very game we claim to protect, simply because our authorities have cracked the whip on us.
“We are a board that is not beyond reproach.
“FIFA is yet to give guidance or indication of how they are taking this suspension, but we can’t further bring football into disrepute by withdrawing match officials at a time when our long-suffering clubs have already incurred huge expenses involved in preparing for matches, including the costly Covid-19 PCR tests for players and officials.
“We don’t want to send a wrong message to the corporate world that has chosen to partner football when at the altar of any disciplinary action against, we are seen to throw spanners at everything Zimbabwean football.
“If it’s true for whatever reason this came from ZIFA, I am not ashamed to say this was not a collective board decision.’’
Chagonda said he did not understand the panic caused by the SRC decision when all the channels, in terms of resolving the impasse, were yet to be exhausted.
“So far, Zimbabwe has not been banned and personally I don’t wish for it,’’ he said.
“The country must never be held at ransom because Chagonda has been ejected from office, at least, it is not my wish.
“I love football it must be allowed to continue, due processes must be done, and decisions must be based on truth, professionalism and above all progressive.
“I shall respect the law and if need be, use the proper channels to clear my name on the allegations that have been levelled against our board but let all the other facets of football continue as there was no blanket suspension or ban on football.
“If my suspension by the authorities saves our football, and the interests of the nation at large, let it be so because I also want to enjoy good football and advance national aspirations.
“I love football but not to the extent of allowing it to put me on a collision course with my Government.
“If we expect FIFA and the whole world to respect us, we have to respect the laws of our country first and foremost even if we are in disagreement with the action.’’