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Goodbye Captain Fiasco

Dear Philip

I hope you have found the strength to wake up from the nightmare which cast its long and dark shadow all over you last Sunday.

DOWN AND OUT . . . A distraught Philip Chiyangwa (left) and Omega Sibanda show their disappointment after they were ousted as ZIFA bosses during yesterday’s elections in Harare. – Picture by Lee Maidza
DOWN AND OUT . . . A distraught Philip Chiyangwa (left) and Omega Sibanda show their disappointment after they were ousted as ZIFA bosses during elections in Harare. – Picture by Lee Maidza

And it is also my hope you are now beginning to recover from the tsunami that swept you away from the most powerful position in domestic football.

I know it won’t be an easy transition.

Especially for someone who has built himself as a serial winner — the poor boy who used to sell fruits at a market in Chegutu — who somehow transformed himself into a millionaire businessman.

The one whose parents could barely afford a house of their own, but turned himself into a property mogul with an impressive portfolio that many can only dream of. The fellow who breezed his way into the ZIFA presidency, just two years ago, against all expectations and transformed himself into a phenomenon in the game at home, on the continent and around the globe.

The guy who dared to venture where others dreaded, somehow finding the guts to mastermind the spectacular fall of Issa Hayatou, the Cameroonian strongman who believed the CAF presidency was his for life. And the fearless chap who took on the COSAFA establishment of Suketu Patel, then a very powerful vice-president of CAF, and somehow found a way to become the first regional football leader from this country.

Today, like some of us who call ourselves Manchester United fans in these miserable days when we have become subjects of some sick jokes, you find yourself walking alone. Wondering how it all went horribly wrong and asking yourself questions about who, among those you trusted, betrayed you.

Wondering how your star could have faded this fast, in the eyes of some people who believed in you just two years ago, and why they never whispered it into your ears. And wondering how 10 solid votes, assuming everyone who voted for you two years ago did the same on Sunday, could have been lost during that period when you occupied domestic football’s most powerful seat.

But, as you consider all this, l just thought l could drop you a note to remind you that this is what happens in this beautiful, yet at times, brutal game of ours. One day you are at the very top and the next day you are bottom of the pile.

Ask Jose Mourinho, he will tell you it’s a brutal game that gives as much as it takes from you and there are no permanent friends, but just permanent interests

Loyalty is a rare commodity and once they feel you are a threat to their little kingdoms, they gang up and cast you away. Hayatou might be laughing now, but that’s the way it is and that’s the way it will always be in this game long after our generation has disappeared from this planet.

You will find there are many you genuinely believed were your friends, those who smiled at you simply because they wanted to be close to the power of the throne, who have already abandoned you now because you are no longer in power.

But take the Bible and read the Gospel According to Luke and you will find a story where Peter even disowned Jesus Christ after our Lord was arrested.

And that should certainly provide you with spiritual comfort that this has been happening since time immemorial.

You will probably find they have already started saying you were probably the worst thing to lead this game.

And that is what happens when you are down and the world is quite a lonely place when you lose power.

There are some people who never embraced you in the first place because they argued you were not “one of us”, “a stranger in our game”, who should not have been anywhere near its centre of power. But you might find it ironic that the same people who were saying you were not a football man somehow found value in electing your protégé and my good pal Chamu Chiwanza onto the ZIFA board, yet all along they were also saying he also doesn’t belong to this game.

But that’s the way it is and that’s the way it will always be. However, l want you to know that even as you lick your wounds, you fought a decent fight and ran a fine marathon and the worst l can do is lie to my conscience that you never made a big difference in domestic football.

You had your faults, many of them, like all human beings and silencing people who questioned your administration by banning them was, with the benefit of hindsight, not the best way to run the show.

It was like you had gone back to the old ways that made your predecessor Cuthbert Dube very unpopular, leading to the revocation of his mandate by the Councillors, and his ignominious exit from the scene.

But that will not blind me from the things you did well and they, by far, outweigh what you did wrong in the two years in which you shook our national game. In a game defined by results of its national teams, you were a true Warrior.

You brought back the competitive spirit in our representative sides and made players feel proud in representing their country again.

An AFCON appearance by the Warriors, for the first time in more than a decade, and another one that looks certain to be delivered in March next year, are the stuff that define successful administrations. Two COSAFA titles won by the Warriors, a silver medal by the Mighty Warriors in the same category and a revival of the Young Warriors, who also took silver in Zambia recently, is the definition of success stories.

Finding ways to keep a bankrupt ZIFA running for two years, where many would have been crushed by the sheer weight of the assignment, and winning back the support of FIFA through having audited accounts every year, were all positives for you.

Ensuring the Warriors would not suffer the humiliation of being expelled from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers by finding the money to pay off Tom Saintfiet $180 000 just a month after coming into office was a grand achievement.

I don’t know how you did it, especially when l consider that in more than six years the other ZIFA administration failed to pay just $58 000 wanted by Valinhos, leading to our expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

Your fiercest critics would rather have all this forgotten or not spoken or written about because all they want is to see you being painted as a devil.

But l won’t join them as they party, as they celebrate your spectacular downfall, because l feel you did more good than bad to a game that was on its deathbed when you took over as its leader.

The way you gracefully bowed out, conceding defeat to avoid a run-off, and wishing the new leader Felton Kamambo all the best, in what will not be an easy task for him and his team, was what good leaders do.

Something tells me you were always destined to be some kind of a shooting star, the one who came to provide a flash of light when it was badly needed, and then quickly fade away from the scene.

Some will question why we backed you, but we have no apologies for that because we believed in your mission given that, more often than not, you delivered. Be it saving our 2022 World Cup, be it taking us back to the AFCON finals and be it somehow keeping a bankrupt organisation on its feet for two years.

After all, The New York Times and CNN backed Hillary Clinton in the US Presidential race, but she lost to Donald Trump, but the world didn’t end.

Life still goes on and Kamambo must be supported because he is the one who now holds the keys and who, together with his team, make the decisions.

You ran your race Captain Fiasco and there will be those who will say it was a poor show and are delighted you are gone. Others, of course, will say it was a good one and certainly no one will suggest it wasn’t a colourful one.

That’s the way it is, you win some and you lose others, and no one is destined to lead for life, even Dynamos, the ultimate benchmark of success in domestic football, had to battle relegation last season.

Take a deserved rest from the challenges related to leading this game and know that, even as you wonder how it went terribly wrong, you left a mark.

It’s now for the historians to judge.

There is a time to come and a time to go and your time to go came on Sunday.

Yours in football

Robson Sharuko .The Herald.