22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Cuthbert Dube Has His Critics and There Are Just As Big, an Army, As Those Who Also Believe in Him


I have my personal reservations about many issues, when it comes to the Zifa board and what is going on there, but that should not blind me from making contributions that can help our national game take a big step forward.

IN a month's time Cuthbert Dube will mark three years as Zifa president and will have exactly 12 months left, on his current term, to serve as the head of domestic football.

His backers will give him a distinction for the way he has single-handedly run an association, which was originally supposed to have been a grouping of some of the best football administrative minds we have in this country, but ended up being a one-man show.

Let's take out Mavis Gumbo, the dynamic lady who has breathed life into women's football, because her responsibility is to take care of the feminine side of the national game and he has done absolute wonders to revive a brand that was on its death-bed.

Let's look at the other members of the Zifa board, with the responsibility to manage the men's side of the national game, and you will find that it's hard, if not impossible, to find any value that they have added in the 35 months or 1 033 days that they have been part of the management structures.

Dube's supporters will give him a distinction for keeping a bankrupt association, allergic to sponsorship deals and burdened by an image that can neither be marketed nor panel-beaten, alive and helping save it from virtual collapse through a regular injection of his personal funds.

Some even consider him a Messiah and the last time I was at his offices, during a media conference, I was surprised to see some journalists going down on their knees, as a sign of respect, just to greet the Zifa boss who was seated at the top table.

Dube's backers will give him a distinction for his battle to weed out corruption, and corrupt elements, out of the national game and he has invested a lot of effort, and financial resources, into this crusade and four of the board members who were unveiled as his team, in March 2010, have fallen by the wayside after being either suspended or banned for one reason or another. The Harare business executive has spent the first three quarters of his term of office fighting corruption, battling match-fixing and its agents, cleaning a Zifa House that he believes is so haunted he has never stepped his foot at 53 Livingstone Avenue and pumping out a fortune to oil a dysfunctional national football machinery.

Dube has his critics and there are just as big, an army, as those who believe in him.

These critics will say that Dube won his election on the ticket, and promise, that his good name in business will provide a Midas Touch that will bring in a train-load of corporate sponsors into our football and the game would enjoy a bubble bath, in a pool of golden waters, thanks to the charm of its leader.

They will point out to the fact that it hasn't happened and Zifa, for all its house-cleaning exercise, is poorer today, as an organisation, than it has ever been in its history, and you are talking about a good 50 years, and in three years it can't point to one major sponsor who has come on board for a long-term relationship.

They will say the Zifa debt has snow-balled out of control, to the extent of even attracting the interest, and intervention, of Fifa and our national association is today six times worse off, in terms of its debt, than it was when Dube became its leader.

The critics will say that while the crusade against corruption was, and remains, a noble exercise, there appears to be selective application of the rules and while the innocent, like Norman Mapeza, can be punished endlessly, an embarrassing 2012 Fifa Ballon d'Or voting farce that happened right in the Zifa office is ignored because it touches, or has the potential of touching, those who are within the right camp.

They will say there has also been a high turnover of coaches, which doesn't paint a picture of stability, and five different men have been in charge of the Warriors since this board came into office, and most of them didn't last long, with Tom Saintfiet barely making it beyond his first week after running into a load of problems related to his immigration status.

They will say our football is worse off, today, than it was three years ago - we even don't have extra slots in the Champions League and Confederation Cup, the Warriors have twice failed to make it to the Nations Cup finals, including blowing the easiest possible route to the showcase where they just needed to beat two teams, and we have never been in a worse position, after two games, in a World Cup campaign.

They will point to the failure by the Under-17s and Under-20s, collectively known as the Young Warriors, to travel to fulfill their fixtures, after they had played the home legs against Congo (Brazzaville) and Angola, as another bold sign of a failed regime, in terms of national football management, which has lost its way.

Zifa celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, 50 years of existence, and Dube will be the man in charge of the ship when the champagne bottles are popped and people go down memory lane to revisit some of the isolated iconic moments - Gift M'pariwa and Shacky Tauro scoring at Rufaro, before a full-house, to win us the Cecafa Senior Challenge Cup against Kenya's Harambee Stars in '85.

Reinhard Fabisch coming here, at the turn of the '90s, to build a Dream Team that was a combination of both skill and steel that would charm and unite a nation in equal measure, plotting the downfall of such giants like Egypt, making fools of Bafana Bafana, one unforgettable day at the National Sports Stadium, and the destruction of the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.

Agent Sawu rising to get the connection right with his head, in the final minute of a riveting encounter against the Indomitable Lions at the giant stadium, and finding the target to send 60 000 souls packed inside the stadium exploding into delirium and then Ajira, the hero of the minute, bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably as he struggled to adjust to the reality of what he had just done for his nation. Sunday Chidzambwa and Peter Ndlovu, two of the greatest football personalities to emerge out of this country, combining forces as coach and captain to finally end 23 years of waiting, for a place at the Nations Cup finals as our finest hour finally arrived.

Zifa's reflections will also show that it has been a period of under-achievement and that we are sandwiched by both the Football Association of Zambia and the South African Football Association, who have helped their national teams become African champions within the same period, puts into context how much we have failed to deliver in the game that matters so much to us.

Dube has been in the trenches of the Zifa leadership, as overall leader, for three years now but he wasn't a stranger to the corridors of power at the association when he was elected, with a crushing victory over his challenger Leslie Gwindi, because he had also served for some time, as the board member in charge of finance, during his time as Eastern Region chairman.

He has been around long enough to make a difference and the question is - has he done that or not?

The Reality That We Should All Face

Cuthbert Dube has made no secret about his intentions of going for a second term of office and he will be there in the battles, when the election season gets into full swing, asking the councilors to vote him in as the Zifa president once again. He will tell the councilors that he has spent his first term battling the cancer of corruption and, in his opinion, having won the battle, he should be given a fresh mandate where he will now concentrate on growing the national game, developing the Warriors' brand and reviving grassroots football development.

And, the way I see things unfolding, Dube will not only win the vote but win it handsomely, with probably an even bigger margin than the landslide that swept him into power three years ago, and that is assuming there will be someone out there who will come up as a challenger.

It's the reality that we should face, as a football community, that Dube is in it for the long haul and there is no way that this Zifa Council, in its current set-up, will decide to vote against him and his endorsement, to continue as the president of the association, is as good as sealed. It might be an uncomfortable reality, for a lot of people, who believe that Dube has come short, against a wave of grand expectations that had been invested in him, and feel a change of leadership could just be what the doctor ordered to give life to a game that has been staggering towards its burial ground for some time now. But that's the reality and, painful as it might feel to some, it's something that we must accept. Dube will win the Zifa elections, by about 95 percent of the vote, if the elections were held today and he will win the poll, by about 98 percent of the vote, when elections are held in March next year.

It's the way African football is, isn't it, the difficult part is trying to get into office and, as Issa Hayatou has shown us in 25 years as Caf boss, once you are in there, it's virtually impossible to be removed through a poll.

While those who dream of challenging Cuthbert Dube are sleeping right now, waiting for the election season to swing into action, the Zifa president is already building his base, a year before the polls, and he has revived his links with the provinces and is currently on a nationwide tour that will see him visiting Bulawayo tomorrow.

He has been to Mashonaland West, where he promised the football leaders there, who also happen to be either the electorate or the possible electorate in the next Zifa elections, that he will do everything in his power to help them get a Premiership club back in their province.

He has been to Mashonaland East, where he sponsored the awards for the teams that won the lower leagues, he is going to Bulawayo, where he will roll out a similar project, and by the time we get to election time next year, the bond between Dube and the electorate would have become so strong, it would be virtually impossible for anyone to beat him.

You have to give him his due credit, as a football politician, and he is playing his game right and smart and, while others, who dream of being leaders come next year, are sleeping, he is in the trenches and he is wooing the electorate every day, every week and every month.

He has established his Football Trust, something that he believes will help them not only wipe out the Zifa debt but also generate enough money to keep their machinery oiled, taking away the baggage of responsibility, in terms of looking for funding, from his shoulders, and letting him focus on running the association.

That he has managed to woo such renowned men and women, who hold positions of authority in our high-flying corporate organisations, into his corner, and persuaded them to join him in turning around this game, shows that he has a lot of people, of integrity, who are still backing his vision. So, against that background, what should be the way forward?

Football should find a way to work with Dube, as its leader, because he is around for a very long time, whether we like him or not is irrelevant right now, and the time has come for bridges to be built, for olive branches to be extended, for peace pacts to be struck, all for the sake of the national game.

The battles haven't taken the Warriors anywhere, haven't improved their rankings on the Fifa table, haven't swallowed the ballooning Zifa debt, haven't wooed in sponsors to come on board, haven't produced any winner but just a nation of losers who, for the umpteenth time, had to watch from a distance, as the Nations Cup exploded just across the border in South Africa.

It's a surprise, isn't it, coming from me, after all that has happened between me and the people at Zifa in the past year, but there comes a time, in every man's life, when you have to consider interests that are bigger than what is good for you and go for what is good for your nation.

I have my personal reservations about many issues, when it comes to the Zifa board and what is going on there, but that should not blind me from making contributions that can help our national game take a big step forward and I believe we should seize the moment and put the development agenda above everything else. This nation, and it's something that I pick from conversations that I have with thousands of ordinary folks who call me just to discuss football, is tired of the negativity that continues to stalk our football, tired of the shadowy fights that continue to harm the development of our football, tired of people fighting and the game stagnating, and wants to see big movements forward.

Mistakes, including big ones, have been made on many fronts, across the divide, but that should not blind us from having the wisdom of reaching out to each other, for the good of the game, and one of the key issues is for us to embrace the reality that Cuthbert Dube is with us, as Zifa president, for a long haul.

To imagine otherwise, that he will lose the next elections, and a new Zifa president will come on board next March, would be divorcing ourselves from the fountain of reality and, if you are a gambler, something like placing your last dollar on Lesotho Correctional Services becoming the champions of Africa this year.

DeMbare Start Ball Rolling

Dynamos got another Champions League campaign underway on Sunday and while they were expected to roll over Lesotho Correctional Services, because they are a far better football team than that little circus from that tiny mountainous country, the high turnover among the Glamour Boys' forwards had brought some question marks into this battle.

When you lose the quality of Denver Mukamba, the persistence and aggression of Rodreck Mutuma, the pace of Simba Sithole, all within a month, and you turn to Murape Murape, who has twice retired from the game and twice came back, to lead the attack, you know you are flirting with trouble in the Champions League.

But there is something about Dynamos that brings out the best, even in average players, and there is something about this team, which brings out its finest qualities to the fore, on the occasions when the odds are staked against them, when doubts start creeping in and when they have been pushed into a corner.

The 3-0 win over LCS, which could have been a blowout on another day, isn't something that they should read so much into because even the B or C side of Dynamos, the DeMbare that we have always known, should be too good for a team from Lesotho at Rufaro.

But what that win told us was that this DeMbare team, even without its stars who were lured by the power of the rand, is quite solid, though not spectacular, and can be very, very competitive and while some of their fans came out of the stadium complaining about the wasted chances, the mere fact that they created them, against a background of all that has happened to the club in terms of player movement, was important.

Tawanda Muparati, who is now the team leader, has been given an opportunity that he must seize and, while he cannot play as stylishly as Mukamba, there is no reason why he can't be as effective, if not even more effective, than the talisman who left.

This is his moment to shine, after years of living in the shadows of midfielders who grabbed the limelight for one reason or another while he quietly carried the load for his team, the burden for his side, the workload for his club, and he must grab it with both hands.

He has the potential, no doubt about that, but he needs to believe that he is the main guy right now, the way Denver took responsibility, and push himself to the limit, because that is the only way that he can realise his full potential and take his game to the next level.

The last time I talked to Sunday Chidzambwa, about Dynamos, was in June last year, and he told me that, even though the media madness was all focused on Denver, technically, he believed the best all-round midfielder at the club was Tawanda Muparati.

Whether Muparati knows that he is that good, or that highly-rated, isn't known and we have seen him, again and again, restrain himself from moving into the explosive zone, withdrawing from expressing himself to the full and this should be his season, his year, and how he performs will be crucial to Dynamos' cause more than any of the players who have been brought into the team.

DeMbare should clear the Lesotho hurdle, because they are far better than their opponents, but the test was always going to come in the next round. What I couldn't understand was how DeMbare struggled to put together US$15 000 to get Fransesco Zikumbawire on a loan deal, specially against the background of their earnings from all the player sales they were involved in with their stars, including those that belonged to them fully like Mutuma, moving to South Africa.

Yes, it looks a steep fee for a year's loan but then, when you do things in a desperate way, as became the case at DeMbare when it became clear that those they had registered for the Champions League would be leaving, you will always be punished by some crazy prices.

Spare A Thought For Arsenal

Arsenal have gone 2 835 days without a trophy and their 25 players have left their ranks to play elsewhere during that period and, while the Gunners are still waiting for their first medal, those who left have won 75 medals at their different clubs. Ashley Cole has won eight trophies at Chelsea, the 2012 Champions League, the Premier League and four FA Cups in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 and the League Cup in 2007. Thierry Henry has won seven trophies, the La Liga title in 2009 and 2010, the Copa del Rey in 2009, the Supercopa in 2009, the Champions League in 2009, the Uefa Super Cup in 2009 and the Fifa World Club Cup in 2009.

Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Samir Nasri, Anthony Stokes, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Adebayor and Sol Campbell, of all people winning the FA Cup at Portsmouth.

There are some who are saying Arsene Wenger is to blame but I disagree because I don't think even Barcelona would have been competitive today if they had such a high turnover of superstars like has been the case at Arsenal in the past few years. Just look at the guys who have left the Gunners and imagine if they were still together, which team would stand against them in the world today, Barcelona included?

It's the system, not Wenger, that is to blame.

To God Be The Glory!

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


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