The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe/Angola: While the Young Warriors Were Being Walked Over in Angola, Gumede Was Dancing At a Royal Wedding in Mberengwa On Sunday

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In our 2014 World Cup qualifying group, where we share bottom place with the Mambas on one out of six points, we were the only inactive nation on Wednesday because Egypt, who lead the way, Guinea, who have already beaten us at home, and Mozambique all played friendly internationals.

Benedict Moyo has been making a fool of himself this week and it's rather sad, if not downright tragic, given that he is a very intelligent man who should be doing far much better.

For Ben was supposed to be different.

Especially from the current crop of leaders who, for the past two-or-so-years, have dragged our national game through all sorts of trials and tribulations.

Ben didn't drop from nowhere to suddenly land an influential role on the top table of the administration of our national game.

He doesn't come from an obscure background, like the others, who remain so divorced from football some don't even know there is something called Vietnam at Rufaro and something called Soweto at Barbourfields.

Ben was a player of note, as good as they come, and was raised in a football family, thanks to a father who chose this game as his life, and who schooled his boys on the greatness of this beautiful sporting discipline.

Grinder is also a coach of note, just like his good old man Paul, and he has acquired so much football technical expertise he is the best they have on the current Zifa board.

Ben is also a fighter and served a lengthy ban, from domestic football, which was extended globally after an endorsement by Fifa, after a fallout with the Zifa leadership under Rafik Khan.

Interestingly, and this has always made me laugh, Jonathan Mashingaidze was the Zifa chief executive when Ben and his crew were outlawed from the game, and he fought fiercely in Khan's corner.

But I feel Ben terribly lost his bearings this week. Having been slammed into a corner, in the wake of the messy affair triggered by the Young Warriors' historic failure to travel to Angola to fulfil a second leg tie of their African Youth Championship assignment, Ben had to respond. After all, he is the board member in charge of competitions and the African Youth Championship is a competition, something that falls directly under the portfolio that he campaigned for, and won a seat to represent, on the Zifa board.

That's why some of us didn't take issues with Ben when he was branded the Zifa board member in charge of trips, after his numerous record-breaking travels with the national teams, including the women's sides, because we felt it was all part of his portfolio because these were competitions.

And Ben's responsibility at Zifa doesn't only end with competitions. He is also the man in charge of development, and has been since Methembe Ndlovu was suspended from the board, and anything to do with the Young Warriors, like their African Youth assignments, falls directly under his portfolio.

His response, in the wake of the Young Warriors' doomed trip, was an obscure explanation, in which he used a number of words but ultimately said nothing at the end, trying to tell us that it's not the Zifa board's responsibility to take care of the financial concerns of the national teams.

The Zifa board's responsibility, according to Ben's weird explanation, is to manage the game, generate the policy for the national game and give directions on how the sport has to be managed. Fair and fine Ben!

But this isn't Mickey Mouse stuff, this is Zifa, Ben. This is national leadership, this is national responsibility, and that is why, during the campaign season, my brother Ben, candidates produce manifestos that appeal to the electorate, in this case the councillors, saying they will bring in a battery of sponsors, if elected, and money will flow in the game.

That is why prospective Zifa board members talk about marketing strategies they will bring into operation, about big companies they will get into bed with, about big financial resources they will tap into and release for the good of the game, about their appeal as corporate executives and how it will boost the game, stuff like that. They know that it's the money that makes the game tick and, without it, whatever grand ideas they have, whatever strategies they have, whatever plans they have, will all die still births.

It's like expecting the Essar directors at New ZimSteel, where Ben is employed, coming all the way from India and winning a tender to run the operations and then telling the employees, and everyone with an interest in that firm, that their responsibility is just to manage and not to look for funds to run the organisation.

It just doesn't make sense Ben and I guess if they were to say that, you would be back in Parliament, as was the case a few months ago, telling the legislators, on behalf of all the employees, why you feel these new guys have lost the plot. It's Zifa's responsibility to get sponsors, the same way it is Safa's responsibility and FAZ's responsibility.

And the big question Ben should be asking himself right now, rather than deflecting responsibility, is that if women's football can be sponsored in such a big way in this country, why is it that the men's side, which falls under Ben and company, is in such a hopeless state?

If only one woman on that Zifa board, Mavis Gumbo, can produce such wonders, in terms of generating sponsorship for the very portfolio that falls under her jurisdiction to the extent that all the league's costs are underwritten by the sponsors, why then are 10-or-so male board members failing in such a similar mission?

We can't hide behind the negativity brought by Asiagate, a favourite fallback position for Zifa, because the biggest PSL knockout sponsorship, the Mbada Diamonds Cup, came during that era and Delta Beverages also signed themselves for three years, with the league, during the same era.

In the aftermath of the Angola debacle, the Zifa board should have convened an emergency meeting and every member should have been asked to give a rough breakdown of his responsibilities, what he has done so far in two-and-half years and how he hopes to meet the set targets.

I'm pretty certain most of the responses would have been shocking and centred on something like this: objective -- investigation, mission -- suspension of this and that fellow; objective -- surveillance, mission -- banning of this and that fellow.

Zifa Is a One-Man Show

If, for instance, we lose our minds and agree with Ben's shocking pronunciation that it's not the responsibility of the Zifa board to raise funds and bankroll international assignments, how will we reconcile that with what the association president, Cuthbert Dube, has sacrificed to try and balance the books?

Why would Dube go to such great lengths, and pour in over half-a-million United States dollars, about R4 million, from his personal business ventures into Zifa, with the bulk of the money going to take care of international assignments, if someone on the board believes it's not the association's responsibility to do that?

Why would Dube mortgage his house if someone on the same board believes it's not their responsibility to take care of the funding aspects of the administration of the game?

There is no guarantee that Dube will get his money back, given that it is packaged as a loan, because Zifa's bankruptcy has reached alarming levels but he took the risk because he knew that he had a responsibility to ensure the machinery would keep ticking.

Dube has gone further than just bankrolling the Zifa projects and has also been paying fellow board members, including Ben, their allowances as and when they sit for their numerous board meetings.

A responsible board member should, in such circumstances and especially working for an organisation steeped in such bankruptcy, develop an interest in asking where the sitting allowances are coming from.

Once you ask such a question, and get the answer, you begin to appreciate that someone on the board has gone the extra mile to secure funds, just to keep things ticking, and that in itself provides the confirmation that it is the board's responsibility to secure the organisation's operational costs.

We have had numerous Zifa boards since Independence and I have to say that this has to be the first one where the councillors believed they were electing a board when, in reality, they were just electing one man into office.

We have never had a Zifa board that has been a one-man show like the one that we have today.

We have never had a Zifa board that virtually ceases to exist, once the president is out of the country, because there is noone else good enough to find a solution as and when challenges arise, as was the case last week with the Young Warriors.

We have never had a Zifa board that virtually collapses as an organisation, once its leader is not around, because there is noone else good enough to wave the magic wand, as and when challenges arises, as was the case last week with that Young Warriors' nightmare.

We have never had a Zifa board that virtually disappears, once its leader is not there to pick up the phone, because there is noone else who is good enough to sort out the mess, as and when challenges arise, as was the case last week with that Young Warriors' emergency.

We have never had a Zifa board where all the other posts, save for the presidency, and to a big extent the fine lady in charge of women's football, are just colourful in name, like board member development, board member marketing, board member this and that, but in reality, signify nothing.

Ndumiso Gumede, who is always the acting president in the absence of Dube, chose to go to a royal wedding at Chief Ngungumbane's homestead in Mberengwa on Sunday where the chief, Zama Mkhwananzi, tied the knot with his long-time sweetheart Phindile Ngwenya.

To the veteran administrator, the wedding ceremony was certainly more important than the teenage football stars who had looked up to him to provide the means for them to travel to Angola and represent their country.

Interestingly, when the agenda on the table appeared to suit the board members' interests, even when Dube was out of the country, they converged an emergency meeting in Harare and suspended Norman Mapeza.

Now that the agenda was bigger than nursing egos or a belated payback party for the Tom Saintfiet debacle, with the Young Warriors' future at stake, there was no emergency meeting this time around and key board members could spend their Sunday enjoying themselves at royal weddings. Too bad, isn't it, but it tells us the true story of our Zifa board.

Spare a Thought for Rahman

My reservations on Rahman Gumbo's appointment as Warriors' coach are well documented and nothing has made me change my belief that he isn't, right now, the right man for the job.

But I have also qualified my stance and vowed to support Rahman because he is the man in charge and the Warriors are our team and their success is our national success, too.

I have even developed a soft spot for Rahman, in the past few weeks, especially when it became plainly clear that he is not receiving the right support to write a success story in his national duty as Warriors coach.

Surely, we can't be sending home-based Warriors to Botswana to play the hosts and Lesotho and try and pretend or try and package that as part of our preparations for the game against Angola next month. We can't be sending the home-based Warriors, the majority of whom won't be there against Angola, to Ndola for a friendly against Zambia, and package it as part of our preparations for the 2013 Nations Cup showdown against Angola.

We can't be splashing headlines, screaming Warriors to play African champions, when in reality the match in Zambia is a sideshow that the locals believe is not important enough to bring in any of the gallant men who won the Nations Cup in Gabon just a few months ago.

So, when the real Chipolopolo that plays in the World Cup and Nations Cup qualifiers needed to be summoned for national duty, they were there in South Korea for a friendly international on Wednesday.

To them, that's the match that matters, in as far as their preparations for their Nations Cup qualifier next month is concerned.

So the Zambians can prepare for the future, like 2016, by sending in a development team into battle against us, as was the case in Ndola, while we are trying to use that game to prepare for the game next month against Angola.

And a week later the Zambians can send another team to South Korea, this time as part of the preparations for next month's Nations Cup qualifier, while our national coach misses that golden chance, to assess his regular players in a competitive game, because a certain directive from Caf confused our Zifa leaders.

Just in case you were wondering where the Zambians get it right, when their skipper plays in China, their best attacking midfielder plays in DRC and their best striker plays for an obscure Swiss team, then you have your answer. Even if we didn't have the funds to stage an international on Wednesday, wouldn't it have made sense for us to send Rahman to Angola, and the whole trip would cost about US$2 500, for him to be in the crowd in Benguela so that he could spy on the Angola/Mozambique friendly?

The Angolans didn't just pick any opponent for their friendly on Wednesday, they chose the team that played Zimbabwe last in a competitive game and that's why they settled for Mozambique.

To them, if Mozambique could hold Zimbabwe to a goalless draw in a World Cup qualifier, just a few months ago, then they were a competitive team for a sparring session and, in their common Portuguese language, they must also have exchanged notes about where we are strongest and where we are weakest.

We should have contacted Uganda, who were inactive on Wednesday, and asked them for a sparring session since they were the last team to go to Luanda, as recently as June 3, and came out of it with a 1-1 draw in a World Cup qualifier.

Or we could have settled for Liberia, who were the last team to host Angola in a competitive match on June 10 and held the Palancas Negras 0-0 in Monrovia, for a sparring session.

But the Liberians, unlike us, saw the significance of the Wednesday friendly date and played Equatorial Guinea and lost 0-1. They were not the only ones in action.

Togo, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Morocco, Guinea, Egypt, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia, Ghana, Tunisia, Niger, Nigeria, Botswana and Tanzania were all in action.

Egypt won't be playing in the Nations Cup ties next month and their next competitive assignment is next March, ironically against us, but the Pharaohs still found value in playing a friendly match in Oman.

When Valinhos and his Warriors played there, in a similar friendly, they were labelled as match-fixers here because, the shallow critics said, noone goes to Oman to play a football match.

When you consider that the bulk of the Egyptian team was at the London Olympics, and they still found reason to keep building with a game on Wednesday, you can see why they are top of our World Cup group with six points and why we have one.

In our 2014 World Cup group, we were the only inactive nation on Wednesday because Guinea, Egypt and Mozambique all played friendly internationals.

Benedict said it was because Caf sent a circular saying clubs had no obligation to release players for this international date but that is different from saying clubs won't release players for this international date.

When we last played Angola here and beat them 2-0, with Shingi Kawondera and Benjani on target, on March 27, 2005, that Palancas Negras team went all the way to the World Cup in Germany. Only one player, Mateus, remains the current national team set-up from that trailblazing squad.

In contrast we still have three players who featured in that match -- Tapiwa Kapini, Esrom Nyandoro and Tinashe Nengomasha -- in our national team set-up, Benjani would be there if he hadn't retired and Shingi is even talking about a possible comeback.

When you look at all this, especially against the background that we are frustrating the very future by dumping the Young Warriors, you begin to ask yourself whether we still need a board member for development.

Highflying Highlanders

Highlanders touched the heavens, with a second half performance that was so rich in quality it became difficult not to admire them, at Rufaro last Saturday as they powered to a 2-0 win over CAPS United.

You can see the belief starting to creep into the team, as they close another game without defeat, that they have the pedigree to be champions again this season.

You can see the belief also starting to creep into the fans, as they celebrate another big victory, that their men have the stamina and quality needed to last the distance.

They turned Vietnam into Soweto last Saturday but the full impact of their fine victory was felt in Bulawayo and you only need to see the happy faces of people, clad in Bosso colours, in images captured at a show staged by Zahara in the City of Kings that night, to understand what this team means to its fans.

There is still more ground to be covered and teams like Gunners, who have little to lose, are very tricky opposition but with CAPS conquered, Buffaloes, FC Platinum, Shabanie and Motor Action all coming to Barbourfields, this is Bosso's championship to lose.

Welcome Home Robin van Persie

So the Flying Dutchman, as they call them, has decided his football interests are better served at Old Trafford and, at 29, taken a huge leap of faith in his career.

I won't say much just in case I antagonise my great Arsenal-supporting readers of this blog and there was this joke on Thursday that RVP had failed a medical at United because doctors were concerned his back had suffered a lot of wear and tear this past season carrying the entire Gunners team.

But I wish Robin well and two things are clear -- he brings quality and, for someone of his age and who is injury-plagued, the Gunners have made good business in a tough economic climate.

There are no guarantees that RVP will be a success at Old Trafford because Veron arrived at a bigger price and was a huge flop and Miss Berba has also been a flop.

We are also bargaining on RVP also completing the season in good physical shape because, given his history, he could suffer a knock on Monday at Everton and that's over for him for the season and 24 million pounds.

But if he remains fit, and eases into the United set-up quickly, we could be seeing something special.

Sadly, for a team that invested so much in building a decent footballer out of Danny Welbeck, the tragedy about all this is that he could be lost in all this hysteria and all his progress could be doomed.

To God Be The Glory!

Come on United!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Chicharitoooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The only people mad at you for saying the truth are those living a lie. Keep saying it!

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