By Robson Sharuko
A host of domestic football legends, the finest three Warriors ever, the best coach to guide the senior national team and the three outstanding Zimbabwean footballers, who excelled in foreign leagues last season, are set to be honoured at a star-studded awards gala this year.
The best coach to guide the Mighty Warriors, the best administrator to take charge of women’s football, the best three players to feature for the senior women national football team in history will also be honoured at the same glittering gala.
Zimbabwe’s most successful football club, the best professionally run football club in the country in history and the best three coaches to guide domestic football clubs since 1980 will also be honoured on the same night.
The inaugural awards are being organised by ZIFA and organisers revealed yesterday they will not honour the best footballers plying their trade on the domestic football scene because they don’t want the awards to compete with the Soccer Stars of the Year awards, which have been running since 1969.
The awards will be held at the Harare International Conference Centre on November 11 and a number of football personalities from the world are expected to grace the occasion.
ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa unveiled the awards in Harare yesterday and the association’s vice-president Omega Sibanda will chair the committee, which will run the awards with a selected panel of adjudicators, including some football writers and commentators tasked with coming up with winners in certain categories.
“When I took over as ZIFA president, the first task was to deal with the issue of the debt and the frightening possibility that we faced of being banned from another World Cup should we fail to pay Tom Saintfiet (who briefly held the role of Warriors coach), which after our ban from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, would have been disastrous,” said Chiyangwa.
“I have my way of doing things and I found a way to quickly resolve the Saintfiet issue by ensuring that we pay him before the deadline and save our World Cup campaign in 2022 because we cannot remain in isolation when everyone is playing in the biggest football tournament in the world.
“I am still dealing with the other debts, but I think you will agree with me that we have helped to change the script when it comes to our football and we have taken a lot of the negativity that was part and parcel of this game every step of its journey to such an extent that a lot of people had lost confidence that things would be stabilised.
“We have seen results improve on the field of play, the confidence among the fans is rising all the time and I talk to ordinary people in the street and they tell me that things are changing for the better in our football and that is what gives me the strength to keep working and to keep fighting to make things better.
“Now that we have stabilised the game, I also felt it was important that we take some time to honour those who have made a contribution to get us where we are today, on a day of happiness, where we all gather and salute one another for the efforts we have all put in making Zimbabwean football what it is today.
“That is why we are going to have these awards, the first ones which will be held this year and you know that I don’t believe in doing average things and these awards will not be any different and will set high standards for the other awards which we will hold annually in the coming years.
“There is a lot to celebrate when it comes to our football and there have been some heroes, in the past and present, who need to be honoured so that they feel we value what they have done for the game and that is the spirit behind these awards.
“You will also see that we are going to honour those who have been in my position as the leaders of ZIFA in the past because we believe they played a part in taking us to where we are today and they need a token of appreciation from us for what they did.”
ZIFA vice-president Sibanda will lead a committee in charge of the awards, which also includes his deputy Tendai Taruvinga, former ZIFA board member in charge of finance Ben Gwarada, Warriors caretaker manager Wellington Mpandare and former Young Warriors manager Eddie Chivero.
The committee has been tasked with mobilising funds for the event and the prizes that will be given to those who will be honoured on the night, while also working in conjunction with the adjudication committee, which will choose some of the winners of the individual awards.
Five Zimbabwean football legends will be honoured at the awards gala this year, another five will be honoured next year, while an equal number will be honoured the following year.
There will also be an award for the Best International Football Player (1980 to date), with three players being honoured for their careers wearing the Warriors shirt and helping the national team succeed on a number of fronts.
The best coach to have led the Warriors since 1980, the three best Zimbabwean referees ever, the best three Zimbabwean footballers who shone for their foreign clubs last season, the best three coaches to have guided clubs in the country’s top-flight league since Independence and the most successful Zimbabwean football club ever will also be honoured.
ZIFA will also honour the best football academy, which has contributed to the cause of the game since 1980.
“Junior football development is the mainstay of the development of football in the country,” the organising committee said.
“ZIFA wishes to honour a football academy that has immensely contributed to the development of football in Zimbabwe.
“Professionalism is key to the development of football, as such teams that are administered professionally must be recognised.
“ZIFA also wishes to honour and recognise those individuals and institutions who have excelled in football over the year. Clearly, you will see that all the categories don’t deal with rewarding those players, coaches and referees who will do well on the domestic scene this season because that is catered for by the Soccer Stars of the Year awards, which we support and have been an iconic feature of our game for years.
“Ours is a journey into the past and not what is happening now.” The Herald