HARARE – As the Zimbabwe national soccer team prepares to defend the Cosafa Cup with finals set for Zambia and the tournament having kicked off Saturday, Zimbabweans should be worried because Zifa can brew us another shocker.
According to a recent draw conducted in Lusaka, the Zimbabwe Warriors, who are the holders after winning on home soil in 2009, will begin their title defence at the quarter-final stage against the Flames of Malawi having been given a bye in the group stages.
The tournament will run until July 21 in Lusaka, Zambia.
While Zimbabwe will play Malawi in the quarter-final stage of the Cosafa tournament on July 13 — less than a week from now — recent logistical blunders by Zifa in organising international trips casts doubt on their preparedness.
And time is not on Zifa’s side because failure to adequately prepare for the tournament will further dent the mother body’s image.
The recent chaos involving the senior soccer team’s travel and lodgings is demoralising our senior footballers some of whom ply their trade in professional and well-organised leagues.
It is time Zifa appreciates that team morale among soccer players yields better results as this gives the players the urge to be fully committed to national duty.
As it is, most of these players have been embarrassed to say the least as they are chased away from lodges (not hotels) and worse still when they fail to even get transport to travel to training grounds.
The recent soccer trip by the senior national team to Guinea in which players travelled in halves as Zifa ran around looking for more money should be done with.
What with other officials travelling only as far as Senegal and watching the game on television from there — how could that happen?
There should be something terribly wrong with Zifa’s administration because the Senegal scenario was embarrassing to the nation and Zifa.
Even when at home and preparing for international matches, the national team has had trouble with hotels or lodges after failing to settle bills.
Several instances and in recent years we have heard of the Zifa boss, Cuthbert Dube bailing out the Warriors with his personal money.
There are also times we have heard of how the national soccer team failed to find transport to training venues.
Why should Zifa not own a bus or buses that can ferry national soccer teams, from the under 17s, 20 and the national team? These buses can also be used when other international teams visit us.
But why should a mother body like Zifa be so broke all the time that in the past coaches and even players based overseas have had to pull their bank cards to rescue the national team?
This week I had an interesting and insightful interview with a senior sports journalist who thought journalists and Zimbabweans were not being fair in attacking Zifa for failing in its financial obligations. Instead he thinks the creation of the PSL killed Zifa.
The senior sports journalist who preferred to remain anonymous for professional reasons said when the PSL was formed he told everyone that Zimbabwe football was in trouble and “everyone thought I was mad”.
“Where are we today? The solution is to have one body running football, not two.
“Give me one country in Africa where the mother body is doing well in competition with the PSL or PL. Not even one, not even SA — that’s why SAFA is in trouble.”
The sports journalist said it was unfair to blame Zifa for lack of funding of local football, especially national teams, because the real problem was the PSL.
“Zimbabwe cannot afford to have two bodies running the game, Zifa has no recognised source of income and I personally think they have done well to keep the national team going.
“Zifa’s problems started with the creation of the PSL — not even Michel Platini can run Zifa without money. I challenge anyone to try it.”
He said while Zifa is responsible for national teams “but who on this planet can do anything without money”?
“When Zifa was the only body in the country, did we ever have this problem? There’s only one source of income in Zimbabwe and that is club matches and who gets that money? The PSL. How much of it do they pass on to Zifa?”
Asked about the Sports Commission’s role in funding national soccer teams, he responded: “The Sports Commission is actually a regulatory body, not a sponsor. Are you aware that the Sports Commission takes a 6 percent cut from every game that Zifa organises?”
He said it was not Zifa that gets the advertising from all the banners at the National Sports Stadium. “It is not Zifa yet they pay the player bonuses, pay for the referees and match commissioner to fly in and out of Zimbabwe. They also pay for the national team to travel, and this is all very expensive.
“What people need to do is calm down and look at the situation properly.”
He added: “I don’t want to defend Zifa or the PSL, but people must just be objective and look at the whole picture.
“The bottom line is, when you have no money coming in; you can’t do anything unless you are a miracle worker.”
Paul Gundani, Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) secretary-general has however, urged Zifa to take a leaf from the PSL saying it was trying its best to lure sponsors by employing sound managerial policies.
The former Warriors player, in an interview with our sports desk said: “It is unfortunate that the way Zifa is being run doesn’t show professionalism.
“As for the recent Guinea match, they knew about that game last year and had adequate time for preparations.”
PSL, according to Gundani are handling issues to do with advertising of the league professionally and as a result “sponsors are willing to partner the local premiership.
“What has been happening lately is that Zifa tended to look for funding at the very last minute which is uncalled for.
“We have a cross section of football sponsors who are willing to pour funds into the game but they have to be consulted in advance for them to include these packages into their budgets.”
He urged Zifa to engage sponsors from the onset as we prepare for 2015 and not wait to do so next year. “Zifa should involve all the football stakeholders and desist from viewing people as if they have an agenda against them.”