Soccer body, media clash

The football leaders believe that the football writers in this country are a destructive force that has ruined the administration of the game. Successive administrators have always treated the country’s small but vibrant football writing club with suspicion and have had a number of running rows with the journalists. But things got out of hand when the Zifa board ‘ led by jailed chairman Rafik Khan ‘ came into power. Khan was jailed for two years three weeks ago after a sensational media expose which showed that the Zifa boss had not served time for a conviction 14 years ago. The Harare businessman was convicted by a Harare magistrate for theft from a motor vehicle and was sentenced to two years in jail. Khan said he appealed against both conviction and sentence but the appeal was never heard and prosecutors revisited the issue a few months ago. Under the Zifa Constitution, Khan would not have been eligible to hold office because of his previous conviction but he escaped on a technicality that he had successfully appealed against both conviction and sentence. His world fell apart two weeks ago when he was arrested, while returning home from a trip to South Africa, and thrown into custody. A challenge by his lawyers against the decision to throw him back into custody was dismissed by a Harare magistrate and, subsequently, by a Harare judge on Tuesday. “I believe the Rafik Khan case is another classic example of the battle that exists between the media and the football authorities in this country,” said a Harare media analyst. “Chances are that the case could have died a natural death if it had not been splashed on the front pages of the newspapers here when it was dug up from the archives. “There is a lot of animosity between the journalists and the football leadership because of the interest that the media has in what is going on within Zifa. “Week after week you are bombarded with the reports of the shortcomings within Zifa and, although the majority of the reports are true, people in leadership positions don’t want their weaknesses to be exposed.” The Zifa board, in their report about the state of football in this country sent to Vice-President Joseph Msika, named the media as one of the biggest enemies of local football. The board claimed that its administration of the game was affected by: “Negative media coverage by Government-controlled media who week-in and week-out has never relented from its efforts to deface the game. “Some of the media personnel are no better anti-Zimbabwe elements as evidenced by their previous suspensions and dismissals from the Government controlled media houses. “Despite a deluge of negatives portrayed about the state of football in this country, the bottom line is that some of the perceptions are age-old and the Zifa board has to date battled to correct the impressions,” read the report signed by Khan. The Zifa board also attacked the Press in a letter to the Commissioner of Police Augustine Chihuri. “We at Zifa have had a fair share of problems in as far as the funding of the game of soccer is concerned. “These problems led the appearance of unbalanced and unfair reports in the local and international media. “As far as we are concerned the majority of these reports were premised of lack of balanced reporting. “For instance when we had our furniture attached by the messenger of court, the newspapers went to town about it blaming the administration without reflecting on important factors such as the period of accrual and the inadequacy of gate takings to fund football at national level.” Last week Zifa continued their onslaught on the national media. This followed a report in The Sunday Mail – the biggest selling Sunday paper in the country – about alleged shady deals within the Zifa board. Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze, whose competence was questioned by the Minister of Sport, Recreation and Culture Aeneas Chigwedere, hit back. He even suggested that the national media could be corrupt. “The Zifa board would like to place on record its disappointment with certain media houses who have been on a mission to discredit local football and the nation at large through peddling untruths. “The media in question has been on a warpath since 30 November 2003 and for whatever dirty money they receive, any credible media needs to inform and not misinform the public. “With the Zifa board elections only a fortnight away, it is no secret that the enemies of football will stop at nothing in their shameless bid to derail the Fifa Road Map ahead of the much-awaited elections and hence their current dirty games.” The Zifa elections were held last Saturday ‘ the culmination of a Fifa Road Map orchestrated in Zurich that is meant to bring back stability in a chaotic sporting discipline wrecked by years of turmoil. Khan’s 27-month stay at the helm of local football officially ended when the Zifa assembly met in the capital to elect a new leader. It was was a straight battle between Cuthbert Dube ‘ a respected business leader who is at the helm of the country’s biggest medical aid society ‘ and former Premier Soccer League boss Wellington Nyatanga. Nyatanga won the battle after a comfortable victory over Dube. Dube was part of the outgoing Zifa board but was largely viewed as a dove in an establishment full of hawks. He avoided most of the controversy that haunted his fellow board members by making peace with a number of affiliates and avoiding the publicity as much as possible. But it was not enough to convince the Zifa Councillors. Nyatanga was being sponsored by those who just wanted a new beginning after the chaos that characterised the administration of Zimbabwe football in the last two years. This group had an agenda to ensure that no one from the old board comes back into the administration of football and is not really worried about the competence of the replacements. But after yesterday’s elections this is the time to build the bridges that have been created by the impasse between the media and Zifa. Nyatanga appears ready to build the bridges between the media and the Zifa board. Even Dube was also on that path. Two weeks ago he met the Harare-based football writers at a function in the capital. There he emphasised the need to the media and Zifa to mend bridges. “This war has gone on for too long and it has destroyed the image of our football,” he said. “We cannot continue to fight it because we have a duty to ensure that we build the image of this game and attract corporate sponsors. “We have a duty to create a conducive environment for our players so that they are able to reap huge benefits from their talents. “And for that to happen both the media and the national association must learn to live together. “This thing of labelling everyone who criticises us as anti-Zimbabwe should stop,” said Dube.

April 2006
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