Flamboyant Chiyangwa faces biggest test to save Zim’s participation in the 2022 World Cup
> Robson Sharuko
Harare – MULTI-MILLIONAIRE property mogul, Philip Chiyangwa, has a month to save to Zimbabwe from being expelled from the 2022 World Cup finals, without kicking a ball, after taking over as ZIFA president at the bankrupt Association’s elections held in Harare last Saturday.
The Warriors were also kicked out of the 2018 World Cup, without kicking a ball, after ZIFA failed to pay Brazilian gaffer, Valinhos, after he coached the team during their failed 2010 World Cup/Nations Cup qualifiers in which they won only one game in six matches.
A 2-4 humiliation in Windhoek, at the hands of Namibia’s Brave Warriors, brought to an end a forgettable campaign for the Warriors who were also beaten by Kenya’s Harambee Stars and failed to beat Guinea, home and away, in matches that ended in draws.
But, for all his apparent failure in charge of the Warriors, Valinhos came at a huge cost after FIFA flexed its muscles and ordered Zimbabwe to pay the Brazilian his dues, failure of which the country would be expelled from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
And when ZIFA failed to pay Valinhos his US$160 000, despite a number of reminders, Zimbabwe were kicked out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and suffered the ignominy of being the only African nation that did not take part in the battles for a place in Russia in three years’ time.
Not even a high-powered delegation, which featured a number of former ZIFA leaders, who went to Zurich to try and persuade FIFA to have a change of heart, and include the Warriors in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, could not bear any fruit as the world football governing body remained adamant that the train had already passed.
Zimbabwe’s expulsion from the 2018 World Cup was one of the reasons that forced the ZIFA Councillors to finally lose patience with the game’s leadership, led by Cuthbert Dube, and revoke their mandate to continue running the domestic game’s affairs.
On Saturday (5 December), two months after Dube and his colleagues suffered the humiliation of being booted out of the 2018 World cup qualifiers, without fighting for their cause, the ZIFA Councillors thrust Chiyangwa, a former boxing promoter and multi-millionaire businessman, into the hot seat.
And the Harare businessman’s immediate task is to ensure that the Warriors are not expelled from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers with FIFA having set a January 4, 2016, deadline for ZIFA to pay Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet, about US$160 000, or face the sanctions.
Saintfiet, the former Namibia national team coach, was engaged by ZIFA ahead of the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers, but the Belgian only coached the team for a day before he ran into problems with Zimbabwe’s immigration authorities who kicked him out of the country for violation of the country’s immigration regulations.
He was accused of having worked in the country without securing a work permit.
Saintfiet, a nomadic coach who has coached in Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Togo, sued ZIFA for a breach of contract, using Spanish lawyers, and FIFA ruled in his favour, ordering the Association to pay him more than US$160 000 by January 4 next year or the Warriors would be kicked out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
And Chiyangwa has a mountain to climb to ensure that the next generation of Zimbabwean footballers won’t suffer the same fate that befell the likes of Belgian-based star Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat of Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs, South Africa) and company, who saw their World Cup dreams being shattered before even kicking the ball.
“As a Christian, I am reminded of Nehemiah who, when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem had fallen, the Bible says, he broke down and mourned for days,” the Harare businessman said in his manifesto.
“But, he did not mourn forever.
“Being an action man, he took a decision to rebuild the walls. After taking the decision, Nehemiah made an impassioned plea to his countrymen saying, ‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem (ZIFA), lies in ruins, and its gates (football), are burned with fire.’
“Come (Zimbabwe) and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, (REBUILD ZIFA), that we (ZIMBABWEE) may no longer be a reproach (MISSING THE WORLD CUP), Nehemiah 2 verse 17.
“Our football is in trouble. I cannot REBUILD it alone. I need you, my fellow citizens of his great nation ZIMBABWE, I need you to support me to REBUILD, RESTORE AND REPOSITION Zimbabwean football.”
Chiyangwa said he would rebrand an Association, whose image has been severely battered, and is currently being weighed down by a US$6 million debt.
“I intend to be radical and take drastic but urgent steps to rebrand ZIFA to a point where we actually need a change of name,” he says.
“Just the mention of ZIFA brings no goodwill nor the desire to associate with it. Our position is to reposition ZIFA as relevant custodians of the beautiful game by restoring and maintaining trust ad rebuilding real value so that we earn the attention and respect of all the game’s stakeholders.
“We intend to build an FA brand that is strong and valuable to Zimbabwe and beyond. We will develop the brand through consistent management of the FA values, beliefs and product quality – not just at 53 Livingstone Avenue or on the field of play but wherever the brand that touches the owners of the game.”
Chiyangwa said although he would not use his money to fund ZIFA’s operations, he wouldn’t hesitate to pour funds into the coffers of the Association to try and save the 2022 World cup campaign.