By Nigel Matongorere
Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa insists he has transformed local football since he was voted into the hot seat back in December 2015 to replace Cuthbert Dube.
The Harare businessman celebrated his first year in mainstream football administration at his offices yesterday and bragged how he turned around the fortunes of the local game in a space of only 12 months.
Chiyangwa inherited an association with a $7 million debt but under his leadership Zimbabwe has punched above its weight in international competitions both in the men’s and women’s game.
“I think there is remarkable progress recorded in 2016 more than in any year before in terms of football. You cannot compare the 2016 football period in Zimbabwe with any other year,” Chiyangwa said.
“This is the year our Warriors participated in the Chan tournament in Rwanda and they also qualified to participate in the Afcon in Gabon early next year. Our Mighty Warriors participated at the Olympics Games and they also participated in the Awcon in Cameroon.
“So in the calendar of our football history you cannot be able to tell me that there was a similar period when all our teams were doing well and qualifying for such tournaments at the same time. All this happening in a space of one year; you cannot tell me it has ever happened before.”
Chiyangwa added: “This is also the year we have seen some changes in Fifa as well. Fifa are now promising to increase their support that they have always given to federations.
“We are hoping to start receiving that money soon. We had so many outstanding issues from the previous administration that we are trying to sort out and get Fifa to start giving us money.”
Chiyangwa also took credit of transforming the Zifa secretariat which now operates from his business premises in Chisipite rather from 53 Livingston Avenue in the CBD.
“At least now we managed to stabilise this whole organisation so that we can manage to do with the staff numbers we have,” he said.
“The last time I remember was that Zifa had 33 workers for work that needed to be done by less than six people.
“There were so many people who just wanted to be hangers-on and nobody did anything about it. No organisation can run without some streamlining, particularly at the moment where there are no income sources for football.
“We are in a situation where there are always conditionalities that are applied to you to get sponsorship. So for me, I’ve seen remarkable changes and action. We have not spared a chance where necessary to take action.
“You recall just after we assumed office that we had a match-fixing thing and that being the case we had to take action.”
In a bid to rebrand the local game’s tainted image, Chiyangwa tried to liquidate Zifa and replace it with the National Football Association of Zimbabwe (Nafaz).
However, the move was blocked by government and the High Court, who perceived it as a move by the property developer to try and avoid paying Zifa’s debt.
“I went to Fifa, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and the Sports ministry to seek approval to liquidate Zifa and form Nafaz,” Chiyangwa said.
“I even got a letter from Fifa giving me the authority. If I didn’t have that letter, it was going to be my downfall in football because a lot of people were ready to strike with a big axe.
“It was an authorised Fifa transaction. It’s not like Chiyangwa just woke up one day and I decided to run away from the debt. Legally, you are not supposed to run a bankrupt institution and I got a letter from Fifa granting me permission to do what I did.
“It was a Fifa-sanctioned move to be precise and that move was not successful because the conditions here and even in their letter was that we must ensure when we do it, the new body is recognised by the football authorities in Zimbabwe which is the SRC.
“The SRC declined on several fronts. There were legal implications, indirectly they would assume the debt and it became a legal headache. I then stopped the court process.”
At the moment, Zifa is embroiled in a battle with the Premier Soccer League regarding the relegation and promotion of teams from the top flight league.
Initially, two teams were supposed to be relegated at the end of this season while the four winners from the Division One leagues would take part in promotional play-offs.
However, the matter has already spilled to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (Cas) in Switzerland.
“Zifa owns 100 percent the rights around Premier League clubs, we are the respondente; the authority above all,” he said.
“This is where they register and even when they want to transect in anything they have to come here. The PSL is Zifa; there is no separation, it’s one thing. But we want them to be free.
“I’ve to make a decision today before taking it to my congress for approval. All the parties are coming here today so that we can get to the bottom of this.
“At the moment, what has been agreed is that only two teams will be relegated since it is what was agreed to at the start of the year. Now we will deal with the issue of promotion.” Daily News