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Date: 23 April 2019

  South African - Soccer

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Warriors coach drama- a real eye opener

[Posted 23 Sep 2010]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
The man at the center of the storm

The unfolding comedy of errors at the ZIFA house over the appointment of Warriors substantive coach is revealing the prejudices and lack of maturity that define the current Zimbabwean soccer leadership and sports journalism. 

Someone once said to me that true nature of character is revealed during dark moments of life or difficult times in life. Every sport will go through darker spells, and it is such tests of time which produce character strength, and strong leaders emerge out of crisis.

Anyone can lead when things are smooth sailing. Real success in leadership is born out of trying moments like what ZIFA and Zimbabwean football are going through at the moment.

Heroes of national liberation in Africa were born during times of national harships which nations had to endure for long periods.

Nelson Mandela, our iconic elderly statesman in Africa and the rest of the world emerged from a crisis called apartheid, to lead his people to the promised land of freedom in 1994. Robert Mugabe, together with other leaders like Joshua Nkomo were heroes in Africa in the 80s for leading their nation Zimbabwe out of colonial rule.

South Africa emerged from political and diplomatic wilderness to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

Now, Zimbabwe is mired in controversies in soccer. There is the match-fixing scandal which is still unfolding. Before that has settled down, there is now the controversy surrounding the appointment of national team (Warriors) coach, which is threatening to expose every weakness embedded in the country's most popular sport.

When the new ZIFA took office, the board gave every Zimbabwean reason to believe that the soccer leadership which has been forever in a slumber mode, has finally awoken to life and will breathe freshness to the game of soccer which has badly needed it for a long time.

The ZIFA board started with a house cleansing exercise, which exposed what every serious soccer-loving Zimbabwean feared, that the team is hooked into the web of match-fixing syndicates, which has wrecked havoc in the world of soccer.

Nobody dared ask why all of sudden people like Ndumiso Gumede, who have served in ZIFA before and were expected to have dealt with this rot long time ago, all of sudden acted like it was news to them that there was this problem of match-fixing affecting the Warriors. Everybody supported the move by the new ZIFA board in the hope that it was based on the desire to breathe professionalism into our beloved sport.

Events of the past week have left believers of the fact there is a new era in ZIFA leadership astounded, and looking for answers in a difficult puzzle where information has been blocked from the public. 

The poor communication, lack of transparency and an unprofessional approach in the handling of the appointment of the Warriors coach has left many wondering if what they thought was a master-stroke in exposing the match-fixing scandal was done with a correct motive to cleanse our game of dross.

Here is the unfolding circus around the appointment of the Warriors coach:

  • A Technical Committee was set up by the ZIFA board to recruit a suitable coach to be appointed as substantive Warriors coach. That techinical team had a former referee as its Chaiperson, Kenny Marange, and only two former coaches without any serious coaching history at national team level. Other members of the committee are people without much knowledge of coaching or technical matters such as the respected CAPS United owner and current PSL Chairperson, Twine Phiri.

  • The committee's terms of reference have never been made clear to the public through the media. Firstly, it is not clear whether the mandate of the committee was to recommend candidates for the positions of Warriors coach and his assistants. Secondly, it is not clear whether the assistants were to be chosen from the applicants who are local, or the ZIFA board had to choose assistants from scratch. Thirdly, it is not clear how many assistants the committee was supposed to recommend to the board.

  • The position of the Under 23 coach as an automatic assistant to the Warriors coach was reported by ZIFA as a settled matter, which never needed to be revisited. That is what the media was made to believe. In the work of the committee and the subsequet board meetings, that matter appear to be a loosely settled matter. In fact, the committee and the board appeared to be making rules along the way. It does not appear like there were clear guidelines for the committee or board. 

  • The Technical Committee, it appears, settled on Tom Saintfeit and not any other coach, including the current care-taker coach Mapeza. The committee then delivered its recommendations to the board. Previously, the edia was made to believe that the recommendations would be delivered to the Presidium of the ZIFA board, which reserved the right to accept the committee's recommendations or reject them and make new ones.

  • It ended up appearing that the procedure was that the committee had to present their recommendations to the ZIFA board, which had the power to accept or reject the recommendations and then make different appointments all together, if it so wishes. It is very confusing how the issue of the ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube having veto powers came about, when one considers what actually transpired last Friday.

  • When the ZIFA board met last week Friday, it apparently endorsed the recommendations of the committee, which had chosen Sainfeit as Head coach, and surprise-suprise, Madinda Ndlovu and Friday Phiri as Saintfeit's assistants.

  • A lot of questions arise out of how the committee made selections, especially of the assistant coaches. How the committee ended up choosing Ndlovu, a true legend of the game in Zimbabwe, and Phiri another legend, is anyone's guess. The two never applied for the position. It is also not clear if the ZIFA board intends Ndlovu, who will apparently serve as first assistant, to take over as Warriors' coach after Saintfeit.

  • Another question which arises is what evidence is there to back Madinda's candidature and preference over those who took the trouble to apply for the position of Warriors' coach? Ndlovu does not have any success story to back his candidature whether at Highlanders or in Botswana where he coached previously. Madinda is not Rahman Gumbo who has demonstrated his abilities as a coach at home where he won the championship with Bosso two times, followed by many titles in Malawi and Botswana. As for Friday Phiri , it is not clear what could have motivated his candidate in the first place. At least Madinda has coached big clubs like Highlanders, even though he has failed dismally twice at Highlanders.

  • One other interesting twist to the coach saga is the fact that the ZIFA board accepted the recommendations of the committee, absurd as they sound. Even more interesting is the fact that Dube chaired that meeting or at least was part of those deliberations on Friday last week. Nobody has been furnished with any evidence to suggest that Dube objected to the appointment of the Belgian coach during the meeting. As President and meeting chairperson, he had every opportunity to raise his displeasure at anything. Interestingly, he did not.

  • Then comes the bombshell. While every other ZIFA board member expected Dube to officially announce the outcome of the selction process following the finalisation of the matter a day before on Saturday, Dube decided to make a U-turn. He cancelled the press conference without giving reasons. Crazily so, Dube is quoted by some sections of the media as having announced thus, "...I can assure the nation that we won't be getting the Belgian coach..."

  • The actions of the ZIFA President sounds like the stuff one would expect to see in a movie and not in real life. To his board members, that is tantamount to betrayal of trust by a leader. In his position, Dube was expected to speak as the voice of his board, nomatter how wrong their decision could have been. The time he should have voiced his concerns was the time of the board meeting. He had every opportunity to give a different opinion to the collective board view. Now, while some will agree with Dube's preference of Mapeza as coach, his action has now thrown the ZIFA board into turmoil. He will be viewed even by neutrals as showing double standards, and anyone with double standards is difficult to trust.

  • Another worrying factor is the emergence of the view that in coming up with Madinda and Friday Phiri as assistants, the board tried to ensure that there is equal Southern-Northern representation. Since when has there been such a requirement in national team selection? Who authored such a rule and what purpose does it serve in our football? There lies the real problem in the new ZIFA leadership.

  • There have always been suspicions that the Shona-Ndebele divide in ZIFA is the real reason why part of the ZIFA board is not in favour of Mapeza getting the job as Warriors' coach. It is suspected that every other reason is just given to camourflage the dislike of Mapeza as an individual because he is Shona speaking.

  • Others go further to claim that when Rahman Gumbo, one of the most promising coaches of the Warriors after Chidzambwa's resignation, was quickly removed as coach of the Warriors after just one error, the real reason why it was so easy for the ZIFA board then to remove him was because he is Ndebele speaking. It is alleged that Shona-dominated board was not patient with him. Others even argue that the same action could not have been taken if that error had been made by Sunday Chidzambwa.

  • The unfolding drama around the Warriors coaching jobs does not help to dispel the above myths of the Shona-Ndebele divide in ZIFA, if indeed these are just myths and not reality.   

There is a real fear in Zimbabwean footabll that our beautiful game has gone to even worse dogs, as the saying goes. There are real concerns and preceptions that the tribal prejudices in the ZIFA board will not take the governance of the game of soccer in the country forward.

Now the question is: Will the real leaders grab this moment to rise to the occasion? Will Cuthbert Dube put on his leadership robe and steer the ship out of this quagmire?

After the match-fixing scandal, will Zimbabwean football survive this Warriors' coach scandal? Will Dube be able to direct the board to speak the same language of football and not view each other as belonging to the Southern region or Northern region, as Shona speaking or Ndebele-speaking?

Surely if there are unresolved issues between tribal blocks in the country, ZIFA is a wrong platform to play out that battle. All that the average soccer fan and support on the ground wants is the success of the beloved Warriors.

The media has not heloped matters at all. Instead of educating the public on the need for tolerance, the local media is fanning tribal fires and sentiments through irresponsible reporting.

A good example of tribal fires fanning statements include an article that appeared in the Chronicle today under  the title, "Why is there so much fuss about the Warriors job now?"

The author made an important argument in his article when he argued that as follows:

"The national association (ZIFA) should be reminded that every Zimbabwean regardless of where he comes from is entitled to an appointment to national teams."

Shocking enough, after making such a telling observation above, the author then decided to change his tone and attack those from Harare, the so called heart of the Northern region.

"Harare does not have a birthright to national teams."

It appears that our society, and more particularly the soccer loving community is one that needs serious redemption from the demons of tribal/regional hatred and prejudices. The prejudices are not only found in ZIFA, they exists even in local media.

Yet the media has a far more responsibility of excouraging tolerance and appreciation of the contribution of all to the development of the game of soccer.


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