By Grace Chingoma
HARARE – Sunday Chidzambwa says he felt like a prisoner on death row, for the three years he carried the Asiagate ban load on his shoulders, and is relishing the freedom he has been given and will try to use it to make another mark on the domestic football landscape.
The country’s most successful football coach was this week cleared by Zifa to return to work on the local scene after his ban, for life, for his alleged involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing saga was lifted by the association.
Chidzambwa made history as the first coach to take the Warriors to the Nations Cup finals, ending the country’s 23-year wait for a dance with the heavyweights of African football, by guiding the senior national team to the continent’s biggest football festival.
It underlined his status as the best Zimbabwean football coach of all-time given that he had, five years earlier, also guided Dynamos to the final of the African Champions League only to lose to Cote d’Ivoire giants, ASEC Mimosas, in controversial fashion.
Chidzambwa has also won more league titles than any other coach in this country, guiding his beloved DeMbare to seven championships, after turning to coaching following the premature end of his distinguished career because of a serious injury.
He was also part of the coaching staff of the Dream Team of the ‘90s, which held the nation spellbound, and came within 90 minutes of qualifying for the ’94 World Cup finals before a loss in Cameroon ended their charge.
But, in the last three years, Chidzambwa’s reputation as the ultimate football hero in this country has suffered followed his ban, for life, by Zifa for his alleged role in the Asiagate match-fixing saga.
The ban, though, was not endorsed by Fifa, which kept giving Chidzambwa’s fans the benefit of doubt that their hero was certainly not a villain and, in the past three years, the coach has been battling to clear his name and return to the game that he loves.
This week, he was given the greenlight by Zifa chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, to resume his coaching career on the domestic scene when the country’s football leadership lifted his life ban after he was interviewed by a committee set up by the association to close the case.
Yesterday, Chidzambwa spoke, for the first time, about the torture he endured, in the past three years, and said this was not the time for him to fight those who banned him but just to let bygones be bygones because the game needed everyone to play a part to help lift it from its quagmire.
“It felt like I was in prison, someone waiting to be hanged, and it was very tough for me because I’m someone that a lot of people have been looking up to, for a very long, as an example — the young coaches, the players, etc,” said Chidzambwa. The Herald