Please stop the football mafia

HARARE - ANZ’s group editor, stanley gama, sensed the asiagate scandal four years ago. NOW In the aftermath of the Asiagate scandal, blood is all over the floor and 15 people have been banned for life while dozens others will receive various forms of punishment.

In 2008 when the match fixing scam was in its infancy, and as a former sports writer and former footballer myself, I could feel that there was something stinking about the Warriors matches but at the time I had absolutely no idea the boys were being used to throw matches.

The Daily News had been forcibly shut down by the regime of the day and I can bet on my last dollar that if I was practising full time then, I would have unearthed this scandal before it escalated.

Exactly four years ago, I did write an opinion piece in October 2008 in the Zimbabwe Independent, where I made it clear that there was something fishy going on in our beautiful game and urged authorities to stop it before it went out of hand. The Daily News today republishes the opinion that hinted on Asiagate right at its beginning especially the last part of this write up.  

Up to today, I believe Charles Mhlauri was hounded out of football because he would have certainly refused to fix matches. Read on.

October 24, 2008

ZIMBABWEANS watched in horror as the so-called Warriors were being butchered by Namibia in an African Nations/World Cup qualifier two weeks ago.

It was a pathetic show which left all of us wondering what has happened to our football. The Namibia battering was a culmination of even worse performances by our Warriors in their latest bid to qualify for the Nations Cup without even talking of the World Cup.

I have been forced to give my contribution on the Warriors debacle after dozens of fans, some top players and officials who want a different media view of what caused this disaster, pressured me to write and hopefully I will be able to give a different dimension to the way our football has been reduced to a circus.

I think there is need for a thorough investigation into the criminal way our football is being run. In this modern age and era, there is no need for us to run football in mafia style like the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has done in the past few years while taking Zimbabweans for granted.

Firstly, we need to investigate how and why Valinhos, a coach with a dubious track record, was appointed as head coach.

When he was appointed, Valinhos was portrayed as a very good coach who would take us to the Promised Land.

But his curriculum vitae, which was bandaged and re-packed by newspapers in the country, was laughable.

The whole nation was made to believe that Valinhos was the main man because he had coached Brazilian legend, Romario at junior level and that he stayed in the same neighbourhood with that great coach called Carlos Alberto Parreira.

What a joke and what a shame!

Yes, that was the justification we were given in the media for the appointment of Valinhos who later turned out to be just a passerby who was appointed under mysterious circumstances by someone whom even Zifa chief executive, Henrietta Rushwaya, claims she does not know. Now we hear stories that Valinhos was recruited by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.

Everyone has heard about this but, surprisingly, our sports journalists conveniently chose to ignore this and the result has been a disaster to our football.

We wonder why Valinhos’ dubious track record and coaching credentials were not questioned by colleagues in the media. Surely, we need to know what happens in the middle of the night at Zifa which has left our football in such a mess. We were advised to give this good coach a chance.

We were told he had brought in the Brazilian flair and all superlatives were used to convince people to accept Valinhos.

But it was unfair. It is the duty of the media to expose such scandalous appointments like Valinhos.

Where was Valinhos interviewed, who interviewed him and who were the other coaches who were considered but lost out to the brilliant Brazilian?

Rushwaya tells me that up to today, she does not have Valinhos’ CV in her office, she tells me that she has always questioned Valinhos’ appointment and she says she does not have the coach’s contract.

If this is true, then the government, through the Sports Commission, needs to move in and investigate.

What happened to Norman Mapeza who appeared to be on the right path with the Warriors?

He was discarded because they thought he would expose the way the mafia has taken over the running of Zifa and the national team.

The mafia wanted Valinhos who would not raise a finger if he comes across anything.

Can you believe that the government, especially Vice-President Joseph Msika, was misled into believing that all was well with the Warriors?

Can we now safely say that Msika, a whole Vice-President with all his liberation credentials, was used to officially unveil a dubious coach called Valinhos?

Surely, the people at Zifa are cruel. They embarrass Msika to legitimise all the wrong things that are happening at their association.

I know Msika means well and is genuine when attending to football issues.

He is passionate about the beautiful game but he should not be used by the football mafia.

During the era of Charles Mhlauri, the Zifa board would quickly meet to review the coach’s progress but in Valinhos’ reign, I hear not a single meeting was held.

If this is true, then it means the Zifa board is not serious and must go.

Surely it is scandalous that the Zifa board only met after the Warriors had been eliminated. We surely need an urgent probe into what exactly is happening at Zifa.

We now wonder who exactly is in charge of Zifa, the board or Rushwaya because we hear the board literally reports to this powerful lady.

Rushwaya however, says the board is too powerful for her as evidenced by the fact that she was never consulted when the coach was hired.

We now hear Valinhos’ choice of players was being influenced by outsiders whom we are yet to identify.

How under the sun does a player like Pride Tafirenyika make it into the national team ahead of far better players like Cephas Chimedza and Vusa Nyoni?

Benjani Mwaruwari might be pound-rich but if he fails to score why continue using him?

Valinhos hardly knew players but somehow he would come up with a team which I understand even the assistant coaches did not know about.

Can you imagine Zimbabwe was wasting time travelling to useless tournaments in Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Oman while our football was suffering.

What did we benefit from these tours except enriching individuals?

I hear Zifa benefitted nothing from these trips as all the money was looted by vultures pretending to be officials, hence they have been nicknamed Asian Tigers.

If Zifa wants transparency, then they must publish for the benefit of the public, the money each individual collected from the Asian gold hunt.

If this money was used wisely, it could have surely helped in junior development. Why did not Zifa act to stop players from travelling in these tournaments which were never meant to benefit football? Or were Zifa officials also benefitting?

It is sickening to find Zifa officials begging for money from government but when they receive money from their now regular Asian trips, they did not declare to the Reserve Bank. Actually the Reserve Bank must probe where the money earned by the country’s participation in these tournaments went to.

Where is Zifa in all this mess? Valinhos, for all his shortcomings had no proper training equipment as it now turns out that Mhlauri was using his personal property to conduct training sessions for the Warriors.

 Zifa has never addressed the failure by the Warriors to qualify for the 2008 Nations Cup and yet rushed to participate in the current campaign. This is criminal.

Now debate in football has been politicised. Zifa is never criticised in the media for some strange reasons. Fear has been put into our football that even councillors cannot question some controversial decisions by Zifa.

I understand every time anyone dares challenge anything at Zifa, they are issued with political threats. Msika’s name has always been used at every turn to threaten people and discourage them from attacking or questioning decisions at Zifa.

I hear even when some people wanted to question the appointment of Valinhos, they were told that they were now disrespecting the vice-president because he endorsed the decision. After all has been said and done the whole Zifa board must resign and not waste time apologising for the disaster they deliberately created.

I have respect for Zifa chairperson Wellington Nyatanga and the most honourable step for him to take is to resign. We need new faces in football, we need people who have a vision and not people who handpick a coach like Valinhos from wherever they discovered him.

Zifa must be investigated. There are so many stories coming from their offices which have gone unreported. Speculation is rife in Harare that Valinhos signed a contract worth $10 000-a-month but I hear officials are withdrawing $15 000 from the bank.

I hear every month there is a scramble for the $5 000 difference. Who is benefiting from the exchanges?

We want a full investigation into Zifa. We want to know how funds have been used including those paid out during the Warriors’ dubious fortune-hunting trips to the Far East?

We also want the list of those who received payments in the Far East Gold Rush to be published for accountability purposes. All we want to know is how much was ploughed back into Zifa for development.

Today, Valinhos is the scapegoat. We cannot continue to blame coaches. Yesterday it was Mhlauri, today it is Valinhos, and tomorrow it is going to be Mapeza while the mafia remains in control of our football.

It is only logical for the board to quit. Apology accepted but the board must still go.

In other countries this would have been treated as a criminal case. Let us move our football forward not be selfish like our board members.

Let us stop the mafia from running football.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.