THE English Premier League (EPL) has a huge following among Zimbabwe’s soccer loving people because of its exciting brand of football, which is a result of sound administration and many years of investment in the world’s most beautiful game.
That huge EPL following contrasts sharply with the interest Zimbabweans are showing in their local teams. Small home teams hardly attract sizeable crowds if they are playing against each other, placing a heavy burden on their sponsors who are paying through the nose to keep their clubs running.
It is only when these small teams play against the big teams such as Dynamos, Highlanders and Caps United, that we get to see capacity crowds at their home grounds. But even amongst the major teams themselves, the turnout has been disappointing because our administrators have, wittingly or unwittingly, destroyed the popular sport.
Due to poor governance, the corporate sector is averse to associating their brands with football, with much of the blame being heaped on the soccer governing body, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA).
It is, however, encouraging to note that since the election of Philip Chiyangwa as ZIFA president last December good things are happening at Number 53 Livingstone Avenue. When the businessman decided to run for ZIFA presidency, not many people were convinced by his credentials. And when he lifted the bans that had been imposed by the association on individuals implicated in the match-fixing scandal that rocked the domestic game seven years ago, critics almost said “we told you so”.
It is now clear that ZIFA needed someone from outside to straighten things up. To create confidence on all the sides that were accusing each other of destroying the game; it was therefore necessary to let bygones be bygones.
The arrival of sponsors such as Wicknell Chivayo of Intratek on the scene is indicative that things are looking up at ZIFA. The welfare of coaches for the two senior teams has been receiving attention and so are the teams themselves.
More importantly, Chiyangwa and his executive are moving to tackle the elephant in the room — match-fixing — before it shipwrecks Zimbabwean soccer by snuffing out interest in the few supporters who are still trooping to the various stadia to watch their favourite teams.
ZIFA’s recent history has been littered with problems, with one of the highlights being the match-fixing scandal of 2012 that saw 13 players and officials being banned by the International Federation of Association Football for life in what became known as the “Asiagate” saga.
A further 69 received suspensions for their part in fixing friendly internationals that Zimbabwe played in Asia, where games were manipulated under the instruction of a Singapore-based betting syndicate.
It is critical that ZIFA takes all the necessary measures to restore honour in domestic football because without integrity the sport would lose its most important asset.
The manipulation of games or even parts of them violates the integrity of football and thus the soul of the game hence no stone should be left unturned until all the culprits have been flushed out of the system.
ZIFA can only regenerate interest from fans and sponsors by guaranteeing the integrity of the sport, hence anyone who manipulates matches or parts thereof, must pay dearly for it.
We applaud Chiyangwa for defending the cleanliness of football and we can only hope that his leadership will go all the way to bring back the glory days to our football.
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette