The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
EVENTS of the past few days, where the country’s national football teams have suffered embarrassing losses should be an indication that it cannot be business as usual as the Zimbabwe Football Association.
First it was the Mighty Warriors failing to fulfill their home Olympic qualifier against Zambia last Sunday after players were withdrawn by their clubs on the eve of the match in protest over the treatment they were getting from Zifa. Zimbabwe had lost the first leg 5-0 away and it would have been a mammoth task for the girls to progress to the next round. The result in Zambia was attributed to shoddy preparations, which saw the players travel by bus and with no training prior to departure.
We are made to understand that the Mighty Warriors players boycotted the match against Zambia since Zifa failed to pay them their dues for their participation at the Cosafa Women’s Championships in South Africa. Sithethelelwe Sibanda’s girls won bronze at the regional football tournament held in South Africa but are still to receive their allowances.
Minister of Youth, Arts and Recreation Kirsty Coventry was left fuming, with the former Olympian taking to Twitter to express her disgust over the treatment of the girl child by the Felton Kamambo led Zifa.
“I asked the ZIFA chair for a meeting to discuss the women’s qualifying debacle on Sunday, he proceeded to ask Government for money for the men’s team to travel tomorrow! I have had enough of women’s sport not being taken seriously in Zimbabwe. #EqualityInSport #WomenInSport ,’’ posted Coventry early last week.
Zimbabwe then took on Somalia in a 2022 World Cup qualifier preliminary fixture in neutral territory in Djibouti on Thursday and no one expected them to lose to such a lowly ranked nation. Out of the 211 countries with a Fifa ranking, Somalia are rated 202 in the world. The unthinkable happened with the Ocean Stars stunning the Warriors 1-0. It was the first time in their history that Somalia had won a World Cup qualifying match, something that was confirmed by Fifa.
“History for Somalia! The Ocean Stars have won a #WorldCup qualifying match for the first time in their history (11 played, 3 drawn, 8 lost before today),’’ posted Fifa on Twitter last Thursday.
Joey Antipas, the Warriors interim coach told our sister publication Chronicle that the preparation for the match against Somalia was as good as that of boozers team set up. Antipas pointed to the chaotic travel arrangements as well as inadequate preparations for the defeat to Somalia.
Former Warriors star Edelbert Dinha could not believe that we had lost to Somalia of all countries.
“To be honest, this is just tearing me apart, we just lost to Somalia? Somalia of all countries. Were we playing on sea, in the air or playing in the bush? Even so Somalia, I am heartbroken,’’ Dinha said.
As if that was not enough, the Young Warriors were also humiliated 5-0 by Amaglug-glug in an Under-23 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier in South Africa on Friday. One does need to be a rocket scientist to see that the boys lost due to poor preparations.
Ex Warriors defender Innocent Chikoya feels there is need for those who have played international football to be involved at Zifa, with his belief that they would know how to treat players.
“Zifa needs former players who have played for the national team because they know how it feels to be in the shoes of the players because they have been there in these situations that the others are now facing,’’ Chikoya said.
On whether the Kamambo administration will go down as the most horrible in the history of Zimbabwe, Chikoya said “It’s very hard to say it’s the ever, the results are there for everyone to see.”
Just how does the Zifa leadership, in their wisdom or lack it agree to pay players allowances in local currency when they are in foreign lands? These stipends are meant for players to take care of needs that are not catered for by the host country so of what use is local currency in foreign lands? From earning as much as US$5 000 in appearance fees at the AFCON finals, players now have to settle for all payments in local currency with appearance fees, for the World Cup qualifier against Somalia, reduced to $200 in local currency and winning bonuses put at $1000.When they are in camp, at home, the players will get a daily allowance of $75 in local currency and, when they reach foreign soil, it is increased to $85 a day in local currency, too.
And there was a lot of drama in Egypt, with players threatening to boycott matches over unpaid allowances. It appears Zifa spent a lot of money chartering the plane for the Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt. One wonders what was the rush in hiring a charter plane when the players, who were more important than everyone else were already in Egypt. There was no need to charter a plane for the Zifa councilors, journalists and hangers on because they could have used normal flights, it did not matter even if they would have missed the first match, the players were already in Egypt.
We certainly hope that Zifa will put their house in order, the second leg against Somalia is coming up and we expect that our Warriors will make it to the next round. If Kamambo and his leadership cannot run the most popular sport in Zimbabwe, they should pave way for those who can. This country certainly has people capable enough to do that job. — @Mdawini_29