Separate sports ministry vital
Zimbabwe is a country blessed with talented football players but one disturbing fact is that it is lagging behind other nation states in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region when it comes to unlocking the value of its sporting industry.
Lack of proper funding is forcing football players and coaches to cross borders to countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia in search of greener pastures. It is also crippling the activities of the Zimbabwe Football Association in its quest to develop football in the country.
To mitigate this and develop the game of football in the country, ZIFA is pushing for a separate sports ministry.
ZIFA communications manager, Xolisani Gwesela, says for any sport to be successful in any country, it needs to be funded and a separate sports ministry can cater for this efficiently.
“Zimbabwe is a football powerhouse in Africa but without proper funding from a separate sports ministry, it will remain like a dead lion,” Gwesela says.
He adds: “For any sporting association to be successful, it needs resources. Therefore, as ZIFA, we are pushing for a separate sports ministry to champion the cause of football in the country. Our hope is that the sports ministry will prioritise football development through channelling resources towards improving the quality of soccer in the country.”
Gwesela attributed recent banning of Zimbabwe’s Under-17 and Under-20 teams to lack of government funding not to mismanagement as once reported in the media.
He says: “Recently our Under-17 and Under-20 were banned for failing to fulfil Confederations of African Football (CAF) games. These problems emanated from lack of funding and a separate sports ministry can only be the solution.”
Currently, the football association is surviving on donations from Dr Cuthbert Elkana Dube, the association’s president. The burden should not be in the association’s president only but it should be shared.
“Remember a problem shared is a problem solved,” Gwesela says, adding: “It is because of the benevolence of Dube that the association managed to survive. We appreciate that but we also need the government’s hand to help him in his efforts to develop football in this country.”
The government is the largest shareholder in the sporting industry. If the government leads by example, corporate sponsors will also come in their large numbers to support the development of football in the country.
Gwesela explains: “Public and private entities in Zimbabwe should jostle to support sports but for this to happen, the government should lead by example. I envision a situation where organisations should bid to sponsor the national teams in the country.”
Consequently, it is the duty of every sports loving Zimbabwean to push for a separate sports ministry in the country. The media should also play its normative role – that is to educate and inform not only the government but also the public on the importance of a separate sports ministry.
“Stakeholders in the sporting fraternity in the country should make noise loud and clear that we want a separate sports ministry and the mandate of this ministry should be to champion the progress of football,” says Gwesela.
Most teams in the SADC region are funded by their governments. Only few countries are suffering from poor funding and this should be a thing of the past.
This means that these countries should do a lot of work to improve the development of the game not only in their countries but in the region too. If it is possible, affected countries in the COSAFA region should hold a football indaba to champion for separate sports ministries in their respective countries.
Gwesela says: “My wish is to see a united force in term of football development in the Confederation of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) region and for this to happen, separate sports ministries are the answers to those countries like Zimbabwe who do not have one.”
Gwesela adds that a separate sports ministry cannot only champion the development of soccer but it can strategies on how to use sports to promote peace and sustainable development.
“My message to Africans is that sports unite and governments, through sports ministries should use sports as an avenue to promote peace and sustainable development in the SADC region,” Gwesela notes. Therefore, governments in the region should realise that sports is now a big business the world over and they should use separate sports ministries to benefit from sports. This is so since a separate sports ministry can help the country to reduce unemployment and at the same time develop sports in the country.