New Zim soccer leaders must score

It does sound to me like yours is a case of sour grapes, that is that you yourselves are not at all acquainted with even a word of Latin and so cannot countenance your favourite column starting not with one but four words of Latin. Nay, a whole sentence of that language! One Brander Matthews from the early nineteenth century has the following attributed to him: “A gentleman need not know Latin, but he should at least have forgotten it.” And so there you have it, my friends- comrades, ladies and gentlemen. But to begin where I began: that Latin phrase translates into “Thus passes the glory of the world” and it is spoken during the coronation of a new Pope. And for those for whom today means nothing much more than just a day when you do not go to work, the Pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. He is also the Bishop of Rome. But where does this leave those of us who only opened this page so that we could read Sunday Sport with you, eh, Mr Banda? Well, my friends, the word once again, as indeed with every Sunday, is patience. I am a Catholic myself and got to thinking about the papal coronation last Saturday, when the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) elected into office a new executive, led by Wellington Nyatanga. I was out of town when the polls were polled. I was out at the border town of Beitbridge, mixing business during the day with casino at night. No, I did not win. Alright, alright, I did but just a bit so please do not get in touch to borrow. You know how it is with gambling money- easy come easy go so I am back in the capital and back in some sort of penury. That is until the end of the month. That is this month. That is April. I know the month is two days old today but I said month-end did I not now? And, in any case, that is another story. Mr Nyatanga has his work cut out. Zimbabwe football is not really the Aegean Stables and so he does not actually have to be Hercules. But he will have to be something close to that Greek hero and possess strength, determination and effort not so much equal to his but akin to. There are not really twelve difficult tasks to be completed. I have not counted them. All I know is that there are tasks and they are difficult. And they have to be completed. No less a personage than the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe himself has pointed to all not being well in the state of our football. Reflecting on his birthday in February, President Robert Mugabe expressed disappointment with the running of the national game in the face of the undoubted playing potential that Zimbabwe possesses. Luckily, Mr Nyatanga is not new to the local game, having been the national soccer-governing body’s secretary-general at one time in the past, and chairman of the country’s top-flight division, the Premier Soccer League (PSL), at another. He is therefore au fait with the vicissitudes of the local game, alluded to by the President in his reflections. That background should stand Mr Nyatanga in good stead for the tasks at hand. Luckily too, Mr Nyatanga appears to have started off on the right footing. One: he hit the ground running. Understandably so because he has been there before, and also understandably so because the enormity of the task at hand does not allow for him to dither or hobble hither and thither. Two: also on the right footing because simply because the Aegean stables need cleaning that does not mean that the bull should enter the china shop. “We pledge to work as a family because football is a team sport and we will run football as the nation wants us to run it. It is not a personal thing but a national issue,” said Nyatanga after his win. Working as a family will mean building bridges with other stakeholders in the local soccer community. Chief among these is the PSL. And to say that in the past there has been very little love lost between this child and the mother body is to put it mildly. Suffice it to point at the heaps of unsigned or cancelled sponsorship contracts dumped on the hills of their discontent. Working as a family will mean networking. It will mean utilising the vast human resources already within the Zimbabwe soccer fraternity but whose value previous executives have not unlocked to add value to the national game. And so we rejoiced when we read that the new leadership will appoint 15 sub-committees to help them run football. These will include, among others, the technical, marketing, finance, legal and competitions committees. This is the way to go for indeed there is no need to waste human and financial resources inventing the wheel. Rather, just pick it up and use it to help propel your vehicle. The world over, football bodies have in place sub-committees that act as think-tanks or task-forces and off whose output the boards feed. And so we rejoiced when we also read that Nyatanga has called for a proper hand-over take-over, for a prioritisation of issues and for a review of the Zifa secretariat and systems currently in place. Indeed, restructuring was a buzzword during the Zifa hustings. Heads have to roll. Heads will roll. But neither of these imperatives says “now” or “today”. Both just say “definitely”. Indeed, the game demands it because it has bled for so long from being under the wrong hands. The President said as much. Education, Sport and Culture Minister Aeneas Chigwedere has said as much. There should be transparency. Confidence in the game has to be restored among the sponsors, the former players who are a vital labour pool in various non-playing capacities, the future players, and the spectators. The last group is its own drawcard. Without its presence, the turnstiles do not turn, receipt pages do not turn and sponsors do not return. Folks, we are where then United States President Ronald Reagan was on the 7th of February 1983. Well, do I get it, Mr Banda, that you are saying that you are at the White House because that is where Reagan was? Of course not, my friends. Commemorating the Bicentennial Year of Air and Space Flight, Mr Reagan said: “Today we stand on the edge of a world in which opportunities are limited only by our own imagination.” Just remember, members of the new Zifa leadership: it is not a personal thing but a national issue.

April 2006
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