By Langton Nyakwenda
He might not be as charismatic as his predecessor Philip Chiyangwa, nor is he as flamboyant as him, but there is this captivating and disarming composure that is so striking about Felton Kamambo.
The 48-year-old Guruve-born Kamambo is the new football sheriff in town after stunning Chiyangwa in last Sunday’s Zifa presidential election, and the former central region chairperson has been trending almost in the same vein as Jose Mourinho’s sacking at Manchester United this past week.
After receiving over 10 000 congratulatory messages via Whatsapp, over 3 000 texts and a “special” call from United Kingdom-based legendary former Warriors goalkeeper Japhet “Short Cat” Mparutsa, there was hardly any time for Kamambo to celebrate.
He met the Minister of Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, on Monday, after which the swimming icon promised to help Zifa deal with its soaring debt.
On Tuesday, he paid Chiyangwa a courtesy call, and then met football stakeholders, including potential sponsors.
Kamambo turned down a lunch outing with his deputy Gift Banda and board member Chamu Chiwanza last Thursday, preferring instead to join his crew for dinner.
And on Friday, he chaired his first ever Zifa Board meeting.
“This has been one of the busiest weeks of entire my life,” sighed Kamambo as we sat down for an interview at a Harare hotel.
Even then, he was very popular with the hotel staff, most of whom preferred to call him “president”, while some visitors would just stop for a simple greeting.
A down-to-earth personality, who says he has nothing against Chiyangwa despite the latter’s alleged futile and “unethical” attempts to bar him from contesting in the elections, Kamambo seems to have time for everyone.
“Soon after the election results were out, I received about 10 700 Whatsapp messages, on the SMS platform I have over 3 500 messages and I made sure to reply each of them during the past week.
“Japhet Mparutsa called me from the UK and a number of former footballers are happy with my ascendancy but at the end of the day, I have to deliver because there are a lot of expectations.
“Exciting times lie ahead,” promises Kamambo.
But who exactly is this Kamambo, how deep are his football roots and from where did he get the courage to take a stubborn Chiyangwa head-on?
Kamambo is now a Grain Marketing Board’s regional manager (Northern), having joined the parastatal back in 1990 when he was still 20.
A former student at Chinhoyi High 2, Kamambo’s love for football was nurtured at Mhangura, the nearest place from Chinhoyi where the game was taken seriously.
“We would go to Mhangura to play soccer during school holidays, I was part of Mhangura’s junior teams before graduating into the senior team.
“Unfortunately, I only played up to Division Two level for the club,” revealed Kamambo.
At the age of 20, Kamambo was already in management at GMB and, thus, his obsession for football manifested, thanks to the nature of his job which saw him being transferred from one district to another.
“I helped form Kadoma Grain Tigers in the early 1990s when I was transferred to that area. I then went to Murehwa where I discovered that there wasn’t a serious football team in the area. We formed Murehwa United, a team that played up to Division Two and I was also a player there,” says Kamambo.
From Murehwa, he went to Sanyati where again he oversaw the formation of Sanyati FC.
In Kwekwe, he masterminded the birth of Silo United. “I love grassroots football a lot and I am one person who can spend a day watching football at a growth point,” remarks Kamambo.
“Silo United is one of my most treasured achievements. This team produced a number of players who went on to play in the Premier Soccer League. The likes of Takabva Mawaya, Edmore Chirambadare and Makai Kawashu are some of our products there.”
Kamambo re-launched Grain Tigers early this year and the team recently won promotion into the Northern Region Division One league.
“I am a former junior player, a player, a chairman, a director, a company executive and now I am the Zifa president, that shows you the experience I have.
“Being the GMB regional manager covering Harare, Mashonaland West and Central, my work schedule is so hectic, but I always find time for football.
“Besides, I have a very supportive wife Tinovimbanashe who stood by my side during that messy pre-election period.
“We talked about everything: those rape allegations they wanted to cook; even when I was arrested just 48 hours before the election, she urged me on.
“‘Show Philip Chiyangwa you are also a man,’ she would demand,” revealed Kamambo, the father of two daughters – Primrose (24) and Michelle (22).
“However, it is now time to put electioneering aside, it’s time to work. That’s why I paid Philip (Chiyangwa) that courtesy call. The good thing also is that we have a listening Minister of Sport.
“Minister Coventry has high expectations of the new Zifa board. She wants us to follow the constitution and do everything according to the book.
“She also promised to assist us to clear the Zifa debt. Indications are that Government is willing to take up the debt, but only after we institute an audit which proves that all of that money was used for football-related matters.” Amongst some issues he wants his board to attend to immediately is the formation of youth leagues at provincial level. “We want to build the base first, both for women and men’s soccer. We also want to finalise the Zifa House issue, but for now, we will operate our business from the National Sports Stadium.” Sunday Mail.