The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: ZIFA's Crunch Time - Board Meets to Review Poor 2012 Season

Photo: Confederation of African Football.
Zimbabwe senior soccer team

TROUBLED Zifa will hold their last board meeting today with the poor state of their finances set to top the agenda in light of a busy schedule for the Warriors which starts early in 2013. Zifa chief executive

Jonathan Mashingaidze indicated that the meeting would review a year that has not been rosy for the national association and also chart the way forward, which includes getting into motion the launching of an ambitious project that will be called a Football Trust.

The soccer mother body has been reeling under serious financial challenges, while the Asiagate scandal and the aftermath of the dragging match fixing scam has dominated most of their business in a largely forgettable year.

The highlight of a disappointing year for Zifa came in October when their flagship team -- the Warriors -- blew a golden chance to qualify for the African Cup of Nations by surrendering a 3-1 first leg lead to Angola.

Zifa also hogged the limelight for the wrong reasons when they failed to send the national Under-20 and Under-17 teams to fulfil their African Youth Championships qualifiers to Angola and Congo Brazzaville respectively.

Zimbabwe now await to know of the penalties they will receive from the Confederation of African Football for failing to fulfil their assignments in those youth competitions.

Mashingaidze, however, reckoned that the many problems that Zifa faced were stemming from their weak financial position and said they needed to come up with working strategies to stem that perennial problem.

He said the football mother body would seek ways to reduce their mounting debts, which have sunk their coffers to a huge deficit of around US$4m.

The association has dismally failed to lure sponsorship and their efforts to get the Government to chip in have been fruitless.

The consequences of their bankruptcy were deeply felt when they failed to bankroll the national Under-17 and Under-20 teams' trips and now risk bans of up top three years from competing at that level.

Mashingaidze said it was unfortunate that the association was operating in the red.

"How do you measure the effectiveness of a national association if you are operating with a deficit of US$4m? If Zifa were a company, they could have closed long back.

"We need to move forward with the issue of the Football Trust fund so that we don't continue going around with the begging bowel.

"The Under-17 and the Under-20s failed to travel and the question to ask is where were the resources going to coming from?

"Zifa has been moving from pillar to post looking for money to finance all the operations and it has been a difficult task. Expecting money to come from the national fiscus has also been a big problem for us because the Government itself has got many core issues that need to be attended to.

"We also had sponsorship problems and it was tricky in this aspect because we had no all-weather friends. We have seen people coming and going but with no serious commitment for the long term.

"So we have to get the Football Trust in motion to take care of our national teams. There are also other ways which we can explore for example the issue of TV rights and selling our merchandise," said Mashingaidze.

Zifa will also discuss the new shape of the Warriors and lay down their plans for the year as they are expected to resume the 2014 World Cup qualifiers in March next year. The Warriors, then under Rahman Gumbo, had a poor start in their bid to secure one of the African slots at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Gumbo, who has since been replaced by German coach Klaus Dieter Pagels, had only managed a point from a 0-0 draw away against Mozambique in the qualifiers with his first World Cup assignment ending in a 1-0 defeat by Guinea at the National Sports Stadium.

A largely new-look Warriors side is expected to travel to Cairo to face group leaders Egypt in March, in what would be Pagels' first competitive game in charge.

Zifa's programmes have been derailed by mounting debts, which have literally crippled operations with association president Cuthbert Dube often being called on to chip in and use personal resources to bail out the local soccer mother body.

The board, which inherited a bankrupt association when they took over office in March 2010, have struggled to come out of the predicament.

Now even Fifa have expressed worry that Zifa seem to be sinking deeper into the quagmire and have called for more stringent measures including withdrawing from some competitions if the association is to contain their ballooning debt.

Zifa have also often been criticised for their poor marketing strategies, which have seen them fail to even tie up a kit deal for any of the national teams.

Fifa development officer for Southern Africa Ashford Mamelodi and financial consultant Fidelis Banda, were in the country recently and warned that Zifa risked losing the world soccer governing body's support unless they show greater commitment to reducing their mounting debt.

Mashingaidze also revealed that today's board meeting will look at the deadlines for the payment of fines by players and officials found guilty by the ethics committee in the Asiagate scandal.

The players and officials were handed suspensions for varying years depending on their culpability and last month the association handed a lifeline to the culprits by giving options of paying fines.

The deadline expires today.

Mashingaidze warned that those who will not comply by midnight would be risking their careers as the penalties that were imposed on them would immediately come into effect.

"Right now I cannot tell who has paid or hasn't. The picture should be clearer on Monday (today) when the accounts department reconcile their books.

"Let me also be clear on this issue, there is no extension of the deadline once it lapses. We will inform Fifa about the developments and this means automatically those who did not comply will find themselves jobless. We will write to their employers," said Mashingaidze.

It should, however, be a no holds barred meeting as the board takes a closer look at their performance in the last 12 months, collectively and individually in terms of their respective portfolios and probably take stock of where they have been failing the national game.

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