Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo insists he remains the right man to take Zimbabwean football forward and the fierce criticism he has received will only transform him into a better leader of the game. He has appealed to the domestic football community not to judge him basing on the first nine months of his term, but on what he will deliver in the four years he will be in charge.
Kamambo conceded it wasn’t the kind of start he wanted and it was unfortunate that, under his leadership, the game has been choked by negativity.
The ZIFA board, which came into power in December last year, has been rocked by waves of turbulence, including a brush with the Sports and Recreation Commission and suspension of funds from the world governing body FIFA.
ZIFA’s administrative shortcomings were also cruelly exposed at the AFCON finals in Egypt while the Mighty Warriors decision to boycott their Olympic qualifier also haunted the association.
Kamambo yesterday admitted the game was not in a healthy state and has called for an all-stakeholders meeting, to be held in the coming weeks, to resolve the problems stalking Zimbabwean football.
The ZIFA boss said there was a lot of negativity within the football fraternity and declared people should judge him, starting from yesterday, after announcing a development blue-print.
He believes this will improve the quality of the game from the grassroots.
“We had our own challenges, particularly after our participation at AFCON,’’ said Kamambo.
‘‘A lot of negativity came out, particularly on social media, to the extent that our funding from FIFA was temporarily suspended.
“Auditors from FIFA came here to verify whatever was coming from social media.
‘‘The funding has resumed now but that affected us. Probably, we could have launched the equipment we bought for football development long back.’’
Addressing journalists yesterday, Kamambo, who was flanked by his board members Sugar Chagonda, Farai Jere and Philemon Machana, said they have put up plans to bring all the stakeholders under one roof to discuss the problems and forge the way forward.
“We are going to invite all football stakeholders. The invitations will come in the next two weeks. We want to make sure that everyone who loves soccer, and is prepared to help take our football to greater heights, must attend and share with us their expectations.
‘‘Where we are getting it wrong, where we are getting it right and where we need to improve.
“So, we are inviting everyone, including our critics. We also want them to come so that we talk football as a football family.
‘‘We don’t want them to criticise while they are out there. We want to have a round table because it’s good for our football.”
The ZIFA board has been under pressure to turn things around after they were voted into office last year in a highly-polarised election.
But things have not been going the way many people had expected.
“I’m sure when we were ushered into the office on December 16 last year, we came up with some targets of things that we wanted to do,’’ said Kamambo.
“I think, from the time that we got into office, we were busy identifying gaps. Among those gaps that we identified were some immediate gaps and long-term projects.
‘‘I am sure one of the targets was to move back to this office (53 Livingstone Avenue) which we did in a short space of time.
“Then our national teams had no kit sponsor and we pursued that and managed to get a sponsor.
‘‘The other target was to qualify for AFCON because we were left with one game and wanted to make sure that as a new board we win that game and qualify for AFCON finals and that we did.
“We have achieved some of the things. The plan we have for the liquidation of the legacy debt is partly an achievement.
‘‘But this alone does not take our football to greater heights. We can only take our football to greater heights when we have the stadiums and the youth leagues that will feed into our national teams.’’
The Harare business executive said ZIFA have ambitious long-term plans to build infrastructure, including stadiums, a hotel to accommodate national teams, a high-performance centre in Harare and offices in the Eastern and Central regions with the help of FIFA.
They also intend to set up a sports equipment manufacturing company to cut the import bills on sourcing such equipment.
“We applied for these projects to FIFA and they have granted us these projects,’’ said Kamambo.
‘‘What we did was that we had to engage FIFA because if ever we are going to do these projects there is this animal called legacy debt which is always hovering on top of us.
“If we are to start any project, it will come and garnish the money and we are back to square one.
‘‘So, we asked FIFA so that they can assist, using our project money, to liquidate this legacy debt.
“We had about four meetings and we agreed and came up with the strategies to liquidate the legacy debt.
‘‘FIFA were here last week on fact-finding mission and we agreed on the way forward. We just hope that within the next five months, the legacy debt will be a thing of the past.
“We had actually started paying as a board but the amount involved was too much. I am sure every day you hear stories that our accounts have been garnished and we have been taken to court.
‘‘We all want to see that coming to an end so that we concentrate on the development of football.’’
The ZIFA leaders were also united in their explanation yesterday that reports funds from FIFA, or other public entities, had been abused, were not true.
They defended their decision to move more than US$700 000 into a bank account of one of the board members saying this was agreed by the board to protect the funds and none of the money was abused.