The women football abused

25 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
The women football abused UNDER THE MICROSCOPE . . . FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura finds herself under the spotlight amid concerns she turned a blind eye to complaints from local female referees they were being abused by some powerful people in the game

The Herald

Sharuko On Saturday

AS far as I can remember, this blog doesn’t appear on Christmas Day.

The reason, why I remember this, is that traditionally, I’m on leave, at this time of the year.

That, around this time, I am usually with my folks, the simple people of simple lives, at home in Chakari, celebrating the day Jesus Christ was born.

That, at about this time, I am usually with the elders of the community, talking about ourselves, the journey we have travelled, the challenges we have faced and the loved ones we lost, along the way.

That, in their company, I am just another child from the M4 Section of our town, whose giant father used to be their team’s goalkeeper, thanks to his imposing frame, and incredible reflexes.

He was their son, too, who used to occupy the seat which I now take, in these end-of-year informal gatherings, which are very much a part of the DNA of our community.

It’s been 22 years now, since we lost our gentle giant, and they lost their favourite goalkeeper, but his spirit, during these community gatherings, especially at Christmas, always looms large.

Then, there is Mr JT Mutendereki.

He is the man who spent about four decades being the headmaster of our primary school and, in the process, laid the foundation in the education process, which eventually took many of us outside our community, in search of greener pastures.

It’s hard, if not impossible, for these traditional gatherings to end without mentioning this oasis of knowledge, a calming influence, who shaped our lives, and gave us the pass to go and face the world.

He was my late father’s headmaster, he became my headmaster and had I stayed home to work in Chakari, it’s very likely he would also have been the headmaster of my son, Kalusha.

The house where he lived is still where it has always been, just a stone’s throw from our primary school, as if to remind everyone of the giant, who shaped this school, and its community.

It overlooks our stadium which, back in the good old days, was the fortress of our beloved Falcon Gold.

We call them Bwela Ufe, which, in the dominant Nyanja language dominant in our community, means ‘Come And Die,’ a war-like battle cry, which used to send shivers down the spines of our opponents.

Today, our ‘Bwela Ufe’ is a pale shadow of the competitive side it used to be, stuck somewhere in Division Two, without any genuine prospects of finding its way back into Division One, as was the case during its hey days.

Back then, the mine’s authorities even employed a man, we simply called ‘Yellowman,’ whose job was to make sure he provided the magical powers, to help our club do well, in their quest for success.

There is so much to write about him but one incident always stands out.

The day he ordered that our team bus, which usually carried supporters, together with the players, on away trips, should carry half its load of the usual 75 passengers.

I was just a schoolboy fan, and we were going to a ZIFA Cup game, at Dzivarasekwa, against State House Tornados, when he gave those orders.

This meant a lot of the fans would not travel but, as the son of the team’s former goalkeeper, I found a seat, for the dream trip to Harare, for the showdown with Tornados.

Being an inquisitive lad, I kept asking my old man, why ‘Yellowman’ had decided the bus should travel with a reduced load, when we needed all our fans for this match, for this tough away fixture?

He told me ‘Yellowman’ was concerned the bus could buckle, under the combined weight of a full load of passengers, and our field, which he claimed he was taking on the roof of our bus, for our boys to play on, during this away game.

Although, we would be at Dzivarasekwa, my old man told me, ‘Yellowman’ had come up with an extraordinary trick, which would see our boys playing on the turf, which they used in our home matches.

It appeared to be working, in the first half, when we led 1-0, with our ‘keeper Chakumanda, which means the one from the graves, repelling everything Tornadoes were throwing at him.

The problem was that the star of that Tornados team was one of us, David Mwanza, the golden boy, who had risen from our community to play for the Warriors.

He knew about ‘Yellowman’ and, after the frustrations of the first half, in which we should have been down by, at least, five goals, but found ourselves, somehow, leading, Mwanza decided to act.

I can still remember seeing poor ‘Yellowman’ being drenched by all sorts of liquids and then being bundled out of the stadium, by the Tornados officials, during the half-time break.

The second half turned into an eyesore, for us, as we conceded five goals, without reply, to crash out of the ZIFA Cup.

Of course, I don’t believe this weird stuff works because, if it did, an African team would have won the World Cup by now.

But, that afternoon in Dzivarasekwa, it was hard to disagree with ‘Yellowman’ that his stuff, indeed, was powerful.


 The last I heard, ‘Yellowman,’ still lives to this day and, given they used to say he was born in 1921, something which is difficult to verify, it means he is 100 years, now.

How ironic, it is, that on the occasion when the elders will this year be discussing his century, I will not be with them to hear other bits and pieces of the strange life of ‘Yellowman.’

I’m not sure whether he also used to play any part in the amazing success story of our athletics team.

For, besides having a competitive football club, we also used to boast of a very good athletics team which, now and again, would triumph in the prestigious Chamber of Mines competition.

It was an annual athletics showcase of the elite teams, scattered around the mines in this country, a competition which was our miniature version of the Olympics, where success earned us a badge of honour, which we carried with pride.

Cynthia “Dalny Express” Phiri was our sprint queen, so good she became national champion, an amazing athlete who seemingly appeared to have been born to run.

She had originally come from Kwekwe and had been lured by the excellent working conditions, which our little mining town used to create, for talented athletes.

Cynthia ended up marrying another sprint star, Darlington Masiiwa, and I have struggled to understand how their kids didn’t end up being champions, too, when it comes to athletics.

Today, she is back in her hometown of Kwekwe and she is a proud holder of an honours degree in Psychology, from the Midlands State University.

A deeply religious person, she is the chairperson of the Central Methodist Church Choir, the Vice-Secretary of the Kwekwe West Circuit Choir Committee and the Chief Secretary of the Central Methodist Church.

She is still doing what she used to do in Chakari, working as a Personal Assistant, since 2006.

If I had gone home for Christmas, it’s certain she would have featured prominently, in our discussions with the elders, since she marked a special milestone, this year, by clocking 15 years, as a PA, at Zimasco.

She also retained her post, as the secretary-general of the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe, making her the second most powerful person in local athletics.

Her journey, in the administrative corridors of local sport, has also seen him take up a role as the Vice Secretary of former Premiership club, Chrome Stars.

We are proud of her because she is a symbol of excellence, for the girl child, in our community.

A source of inspiration, who continues to show them that, as long as they believe, their dreams should not be held back by their gender.

Of course, those who grew up in such conservative communities like ours, know that it’s not easy for a girl child to really dream that one day, she will be something more than just a housewife.

The society, within such communities, is hostile to the interests of the girl child, who grows up being reminded, by her environment, that her place, in the future, should be confined to being a mother, who stays at home, to raise her kids.

That’s why someone like Cynthia Phiri is important because she has shown that barriers can be shattered and dreams can come true even for the ordinary girl, growing up, in such communities.

As she marks 15 years of service, as a PA at Zimasco, and another year, as the secretary-general of NAAZ, Cynthia Phiri will certainly be charmed to know that Fatma Samoura, is marking five years, as FIFA secretary-general.

A muslim, who also grew up in a conservative society in Dakar, Senegal, Samoura refused to be chained by the ghosts of history to battle her way to the very top, in her chosen field.

For about two decades, she worked on humanitarian projects for the United Nations and, five years ago, she joined FIFA as its first non-European secretary-general.

She also became the first African administrator, male or female, to occupy one of the two most influential positions in world football, on a permanent basis.

It was celebrated as an African success story, the girl from Dakar, rising to occupy such a prestigious role, in world football.

Her first name, Fatma, sounds very familiar, especially for those who grew up in mining communities, where there is a sizeable number of the Muslim population.

“There are people who think that a black woman should not be leading the administration of FIFA. It’s sometimes as simple as that,” she told the BBC

“It is something we are fighting on a daily basis on the pitch. I don’t want any racist person around me.

“Throughout my life, I have always faced challenges as a woman, in a traditional society or in a workplace dominated by men, but what has really taken me to where I am is hard work.

“I never expected anybody to do me a favour because I am a woman, and I still don’t.”



One of her first challenges came when Mariam Diakite, a public relations consultant from Mali, accused former CAF president, Ahmad Ahmad, of inappropriate behaviour.

Diakite claimed, in her dossier, Ahmad fired her, from her work with CAF, after she rejected his romantic advances, in a hotel suite, in Rabat, Morocco.

“He was refusing to let me work because I refused to marry him,” Diakite said in her complaint filed with FIFA.

“When you are a president and you’ve got people whose dream is to work in football and you say, ‘Come to my room and I give you a job,’ is that not abuse of power?”

Diakite said that, as a Muslim, it was not easy to come forward, for cultural reasons, but also because of pressure from some football forces, for her to remain quiet.

Because of her religious background, Diakite could not even use the term “sexual harassment” to describe what she said happened to her.

She wasn’t the only one.

A British translator, who chose not to be named, told the New York Times, she was also cornered by Ahmad, at the same conference in Rabat, and asked by the CAF president to accompany him into his room.

She immediately quit the job and flew back to London where she filed a report with the British police.

Samoura was close to Ahmad and this posed a huge challenge for the FIFA secretary-general, as the world media, including powerful outlets like the New York Times, feasted on the explosive allegations.

But, not even his impressive gang of connections could protect Ahmad, once the stain of sexual harassment started stalking him and, by November last year, he was gone.

The man, who had become the most powerful man in African football, was hounded out, in humiliation, after FIFA banned him for five years, for breaching various codes of ethics.

It didn’t matter that, at the time he was sanctioned for breaching codes relating to duty of loyalty, offering and accepting gifts, abusing his position and misappropriation of funds, he was the FIFA vice-president.

When the time for the system to act came, not even the protection, and privilege he had enjoyed, from being close to the FIFA bosses, including Samoura, could save him, as he went down the drain, as a broken and disgraced man.

Against that background, it becomes difficult to understand why Samoura doesn’t appear to have been touched by the way local female referees say they were routinely abused, by some savages within the game disguised as their leaders, over a considerable period of time.

These women, just like Samoura, simply wanted to chase their dreams in this game and they chose to venture into the male-dominated world of refereeing.

They knew the obstacles, which were in their way, but their determination, to show that women can also do very well, drove them to challenge tradition, and helped them become qualified referees.

They all have horrible stories to tell, the challenges they had to overcome, the leaders who stalked them for abuse.

And, like Diakite, being invited to come into hotel rooms, to satisfy the egos of some people, who believed they had power over them.

These female referees have dreams, even to one day become the ZIFA president because, after all, Nelson Chirwa, also used to be a referee, before becoming the leader of domestic football.

They know that Felix Tangawarima, the finest Zimbabwean referee of his generation, would probably make a better ZIFA president, than some of the misfits they have seen come and lead their game.

For our game, in particular, and society, in general, not to sympathise with these referees, who have been to hell and back, is an insult to everything that makes us such a good community of tribes.

For people like Fatma Samoura, who claimed they were there to help the girl child realise their dreams, to turn their backs on these women, simply because they are Zimbabweans, is a shame.

For ZIFA to turn a blind eye to their protests, simply because one of those who is being implicated happens to work for the same organisation as the association’s suspended president, Felton Kamambo, is simply unacceptable.

I’m from a community which gave Cynthia Phiri her chance, that she was a woman didn’t matter to us, and we beat our chests with pride today, because she is now the second most powerful woman in local athletics.

Yes, we are conservative in Chakari but we don’t abuse women, it’s something the elders would have been telling me, again and again, had I gone home for Christmas.

To God Be The Glory!

Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and all the Chakariboys still in the struggle.

 Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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