BY HENRY MHARA
LA LIGA have said they are “extremely disappointed” following reports suggesting that their donation of soccer balls to Zifa for development of grassroots football, could have been misappropriated by the association’s former boss Philip Chiyangwa (pictured), who is accused of using them for his personal use.
Our sister paper, The Standard, this week published a story — as part of a series by Alpha Media Holdings that exposed how Chiyangwa could have milked the association of thousands of dollars during his tenure through fraud and corruption — whereby the flamboyant businessman is accused by Zifa of converting 1 080 soccer balls meant to kick-start a grassroots soccer development project in the country to his personal use.
Zifa have since reported the matter and numerous others against Chiyangwa, to the police.
La Liga responded angrily to the reports and are also ready to take legal action against Chiyangwa.
“As La Liga we are concerned about this situation. The purpose of the donated balls was to support the implementation of football developing projects in Zimbabwe which is something we really want to do. I say this in line with our objective to grow football at large,” La Liga representative in Africa Enrique Suay said.
“La Liga can confirm that a number of soccer balls were donated to Zifa in April 2018, for the development of the football community in Zimbabwe through the implementation of the #PassTheBall project. We are extremely disappointed with the recent allegations that have risen in regard to this donation and condemn such actions.
“If this donation ended up for other purposes, it would put us in a very unpleasant position as our intentions were completely different. At this stage we are communicating with Zifa in order to get more information on the topic. Our signed memorandum of understanding with them is very clear that in any instance of any behaviour that could be regarded as an offence, according to the provisions under the criminal laws of Spain, or Zimbabwe, that La Liga shall cooperate in so far as possible with the police and or court authorities to clarify the criminal liabilities arising out of the facts reported.
“In the case that the commented accusations were true, we will be saddened that our good intentions would have been tainted and our purpose to elevate grassroots soccer in Zimbabwe would have been derailed.
“Our objective is to work on different projects with Zifa, in order to develop the football industry at large, understanding that this is limited to certain personalities that are not involved with the current Zifa management. We are keen to keep working our relationship with Zifa,” Suay added.
La Liga have said they are taking the allegations seriously and the country manager in South Africa Marcos Pelegrin on Tuesday wrote to Zifa seeking clarification on the reports.
“It is noticed that there are accusations towards former Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa, who might have used the mentioned donation towards other interests rather than the implementation of football development programmes in the region, which was our (intention),” part of the letter read.
Pelegrin said the memorandum of understanding they signed with Zifa states that the association would get football materials from La Liga which “shall be channelled to the grassroots teams.”
“Therefore, we wanted to ask you to provide us a full report on the actual situation, so we can have a better understanding and see how La Liga can react towards it. Also, we stay entirely at your disposal for any documents or information that we can provide towards taking legal actions if needed,” further reads the letter.
Analysts fear that Chiyangwa’s alleged shenanigans could jeopardise the agreement and scare away other potential sponsors for Zifa.
However, La Liga have committed to work with the new Zifa management. “Lastly we are looking forward to reengage with you in this 2020 to look for working on projects that can benefit both entities,” Pelegrin said.
Zifa in 2018 signed a partnership agreement with La Liga in Africa in which the two agreed to work together to develop football in Zimbabwe.
The deal was, among other things, expected to open avenues for local footballers to ply their trade in the Spanish top-flight league.
In return, La Liga would get publicity through Zifa. The agreement, which was signed by Chiyangwa and head of La Liga in Africa, Antonio Barradas, saw Zifa receiving a first consignment of over 1 000 soccer balls to kick-start a grassroots soccer development project in the country.
Documents show that La Liga donated a total of 1 080 soccer balls, with a goods received voucher by Zifa, dated May 7, 2018, confirming receipt of the order.
However, it has since emerged that the donation did not reach its intended target, and Zifa are now accusing their former boss of allegedly converting the soccer balls to his personal use.
Sources said Chiyangwa allegedly used the soccer balls to campaign ahead of the July 2018 general elections in which he was vying for the Zvimba South Member of Parliament seat.
The sources said he hosted a number of tournaments in the constituency in the build-up to the elections with the winners rewarded with soccer equipment. He went on to win the seat in the National Assembly.
Zifa wrote to Chiyangwa seeking an explanation on how the balls were used and a list of beneficiaries, a letter which he ignored.
After drawing a blank from Chiyangwa, Zifa reported Chiyangwa to the police over the matter.
A police report was made to the Commercial Crimes Unit at the Harare Central Police Station on November 20, and the case’s DR number is 40/11/19.
This is not the first time Chiyangwa has been accused of converting the association’s donations for personal use.
Zifa are also alleging that the flamboyant businessman converted two twin-cab vehicles donated to the association by Wicknell Chivayo, to his personal use.
The vehicles were part of the US$1 million donation to Zifa by Chivayo, but were both registered in the names of Chiyangwa’s companies which took them when he lost the elections.
Zifa are battling to reclaim the vehicles, and have also reported the matter to the police.
Chiyangwa is also accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the association through fraud and corruption, which involve withdrawing US$30 000 from a Zifa nostro account, months after he had ceased to be a Zifa official.
He also allegedly ordered the broke association to meet the costs of his lavish birthday party in 2017 – which was attended by Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
The documents also show that he leased the Zifa Village to one of his companies, Hansporte Investments, to keep creditors at bay, an agreement which he allegedly later used to loot funds from the association.
Chiyangwa is refuting all the allegations.