By Nigel Matongorere
Football “mad” founder of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) ministries — Walter Magaya is known for his philanthropy — but there are some critics who feel it is all for the cameras.
Yet, his cheerful giving and faith have results — he owns premiership football team, Yadah — and he has been rendering assistance to the Zimbabwe national football teams.
His relationship with the senior football men’s team, the Warriors in particular, has come under the spotlight as his benevolence, in some quarters, is seen as trying to influence team selection.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” the Bible says in James 2 verses 14-17.
Magaya’s admirers say his actions towards the Warriors are well captured and explained in the above scripture.
As the nation continues to revel in the Warriors qualification for June’s 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, the spotlight is increasingly being shone on Zifa’s dependence on Magaya.
Zimbabwe beat Congo 2-0 at the National Sports Stadium last Sunday to top Group G and punched a ticket to be at Africa’s premier football tournament that will run from June 21 to July 19 in Egypt.
However, like what has been happening in recent years, the financially hamstrung Zifa had to rely on Magaya for most of the logistical arrangements for the national team.
When Warriors foreign-based stars like captain Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat, Tendai Darikwa and Tino Kadewere arrived at the Robert Mugabe International Airport ahead of the match, they were all picked up by a PHD ministries van.
From there, they were then taken to Magaya’s Yadah Hotel in Waterfalls where they joined the rest of their teammates in preparations for the Congo encounter. Magaya provided accommodation and meals to the national team during their stay at his hotel.
At the moment, Zifa does not have an official team bus for the national team and the Warriors had to use PHD ministries buses to make their way to their training ground some 21km away at Harare International School in Mt Pleasant.
When the Warriors were locked out of the National Sports Stadium by the ministry of Local Government, they were left with no option but to train at the Yadah Hotel grounds.
Even when the team travelled for the big game on Sunday, they also used the PHD Ministries bus to go to the National Sports Stadium.
Magaya is doing all this out of his own benevolence and love for football since he is also a proprietor of a Premier Soccer League (PSL) side — Yadah FC.
However, all this generosity has created debate since Zifa is not paying the self-proclaimed prophet any cent for all the services he is providing to the national team.
Some fans believe that Magaya will now have a monopoly over the team to the point of even influencing team selection.
The fans concerns are then heightened by the fact that Yadah winger Leeroy Mavhunga is always part of the Warriors set-up.
Former Yadah defender Jimmy Dzingai, who is now on the books of Zambian side Power Dynamos, is another regular on the Warriors roster.
Before his current injury woes, Yadah centre back Byron Madzokere was also part and parcel of national team coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s plan.
Mavhunga and Dzingai were on the Warriors bench for the 2-0 win over the Red Devils last weekend. Many fans are now convinced that these Yadah players are being accommodated in the national team because of Zifa’s indebtedness to Magaya.
Zifa president Felton Kamambo denied the accusations that they have seeded control of the national team to Magaya.
“We will remain with our independence despite what people out there might think regarding our sponsorship arrangement with Magaya,” Kamambo told the Daily News on Sunday.
“People should not disturb someone who is putting in a lot of effort to help the national team in this difficult economic environment.
“Worldwide, national teams are the sole responsibility of governments but in our case, the government is not in a position to fully fund the Warriors and the other national teams.
“But we have someone like Magaya, who has come on board to help out with what he can and that should not be a problem.
“There is no way Magaya will interfere with the affairs of our teams because when it comes to team selection, we have competent technical staff that are responsible for that.”
On the matter of using PHD Ministries’ buses, Kamambo said Zifa is working on a solution which should be available anytime soon.
“At the moment, Zifa does not have a bus to ferry national teams that is why we are using the Yadah buses,” he said.
“But as you are aware, we have already paid for the debt which resulted in the 2010 World Cup Legacy bus being attached.
“There are some technicalities that need to be sorted out first but very soon that bus will be returned into Zifa’s custody for use with the national teams.”
Kamambo, who came into power last December, said their association has an open door policy with potential sponsors.
“What we are just saying is that anyone who wants to sponsor the Warriors or any of our teams is very welcome to come on board,’ he said.
“We will discuss everything openly regarding what they are offering but that does not mean Zifa will surrender rights of the administration of the teams to the sponsors.”
Efforts to get a comment from Magaya or PHD Ministries proved fruitless but one of his close associates told the Daily News on Sunday that “everything was above board”.
“What fans should realise is that the prophet’s gestures to the national team are purely genuine,” the associate said.
“There is no way he is using his donations to influence Yadah players’ selection into the national team. Leeroy is one of the best wingers in the PSL and is called up to the Warriors on merit.
“Week-in-week-out, Leeroy is leaving defenders for dead on the floor in the PSL; it’s just that our fans only watch Dynamos, CAPS and Highlanders matches.
“They don’t take time to watch other teams but national team coaches do not operate like that.
“Mhofu and his assistants are always travelling around the country looking for talent and do not concentrate on the big three alone.”
“Dzingai was probably one of the best defenders in the local league and that’s why he was signed by a top Zambian side Power Dynamos.
“Byron’s only problem is that he is injury-plagued and when he is fit, he can walk into the first team of any club in the PSL,” Magaya’s confidante added. Daily News