Calls for Fifa ban nonsensical

HARARE - Without a doubt, football administration in Zimbabwe has had its fair share of problems – and some of them self-inflicted and highly unnecessary.

From the times of Nelson Chirwa, Trevor Carelse-Juul, Leo Mugabe, Wellington Nyatanga to the current executive led by Cuthbert Dube, the country has been rocked by a number of administrative blunders, which have stalled football development locally.

And these have not been limited to the lack of qualification to major tournaments by our soccer teams that the call for Sports minister Andrew Langa to disband the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) board – and, therefore, attract a Fifa ban – is not only ill-advised, but misplaced and retrogressive.

While the chorus has been fronted by former Dynamos secretary-general Leslie Gwindi and others, l believe these self-serving shrill calls have also exposed a serious, if not contrived, lack of understanding of the national association’s mandate and what a global ban would do to Zimbabwe.

From my understanding, Zifa’s mandate in running the local game goes beyond the senior men’s team or so-called Warriors, but actually anchored on four key pillars, including administration, coaching, football medicine and refereeing.

Admittedly, it is every Zimbabwean football fan’s desire and aspiration for our teams to progress, but quite another for Gwindi and company to call for the country’s expulsion from Fifa simply because they want to get rid of Dube.

For a body that has largely been surviving on the Zifa president and Zurich-based organisation’s benevolence, and goodwill, do people not know how detrimental these actions would be on the broader national game?

In the midst of tight budgets at government level and ever-increasing penury at 53 Livingstone Avenue, Sepp Blatter has bailed us on many key projects, including the foreseen new headquarters, beyond the annual $250 000 grant.

Therefore, is it in our national interest to be losing the little that is coming through – from our all-weather friends – on account of a generation of failed players and some petty personal wars driven more by selfish interests than football.

To expose the folly of this plan, are the proponents of this move in charge or control of whatever punishment Fifa would have brought on us and this includes the waiting period for our re-admission.

It does not take rocket science to know that once Zimbabwe has been sanctioned, it cannot come back into the fold of international football on its terms and, while we are ostracized, all facets of football would be suffering. These include the goal project and associated projects such as Zifa Village.

Yes, it’s hard to accept that among the squad that failed to beat Tanzania ang got eliminated from the Nations Cup qualifiers so early were some players we thought were a God-send generation. Perhaps we overrated them, and it’s as much as it hurts, it’s time to move on next generation of Warriors.

This is where Fifa comes in handy. Inviting a ban on ourselves from Fifa is not a much thought-after idea from those clamouring for it; we need to play as much football as we can in this rebuilding period.

A Fifa ban means we cease to become part of the Fifa family, and with it all the benefits that comes with being one. So how are we going to groom the next generation of Warriors if the players are not playing international football?

We need to forget about the players that have failed us, hard to take as it is to accept that this lot that promised so much has failed us.

Let’s assemble a development squad of Under-17 and Under-20 players. Get the same group to play as much football is it can, starting from this year’s Cosafa Cup in Botswana, leading up to the Chan tournament in 2016.

They will get hammered. Maybe not as much. But results are not what we are looking for in this rebuilding phase. But the time we start qualification campaigns for the 2017 Afcon and 2018 World Cup, we would have nurtured a team sufficiently equipped to take on the continent.

Besides the international games, also get the group to meet and train regularly at a high performance centre, at Zifa Village or the Innovative Centre, under the stewardship of expert elite coaches. Get Fifa to fund the coaching, they will listen to such proposals in Zurich.

This is what progressive football people should be putting on the table. Not inviting a destructive Fifa ban.

And it gets so worrying that the anti-Dube crusade includes misinformation campaigns that the Under-17 and 20 teams have been banned from international competition, yet the Confederation of African Football has never made such pronouncements.

That aside, has anything spectacular come out of our shores in terms of on-field achievement when the record shows that Zimbabwe has only qualified twice for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Save for the Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri eras in 2004, and 2006, has the bunch of senior national team players and coaches shown us anything out of the ordinary to warrant this wild, hysterical and misguided claim that we are among the best.

While continental giants like Cameroon and Nigeria – regular qualifiers for major events like Olympics, and the World Cup – have had frequent bonus clashes, is it really catastrophic for debt-ridden Zifa to be quarrelling with its players?

In another view, is the call for Zimbabwe’s expulsion from Fifa structures and assistance not akin to inviting “sanctions” on Zimbabwe, and at a time when the country desperately needs friends?

While many a people have decried the effects of a travel and asset embargo on President Robert Mugabe, and the economy, it is a shocking development to hear people calling for action against the country when they should be helping to fight these western embargoes.

And in lieu of the foregoing, it is my humble opinion that calls for Dube, and his executive to go – on account that they have failed – could be presumptuous and nonsensical for we have experienced “relative stability, and respect” from people like Blatter.

Unlike any of his predecessors, the man has ploughed significant personal resources into the game, while the nation had been accustomed to crises such as Asiagate under Nyatanga and the perennial near-misses of others.

Despite the vilification he is facing now, the Zifa boss forked out $20 000-plus and guaranteed Tanzania’s stay at Pandhari around that ill-fated weekend.

And when one looks at it objectively, what would have been more treasonous than the match-fixing scams?

In the meantime, we could concentrate on building strong teams around genuinely young players to take part in developmental tourneys such as Cosafa and ensure that Zimbabwe competes favourably in the future.

On the other hand, Dube’s arm-chair critics and detractors could also chip in financially, and otherwise to help develop, promote and control the national game!

And frankly, football is not Warriors and the Warriors are not football.