THE BIG INTERVIEW 1: Rebel with a cause

HARARE - Nigel Munyati, who is coming to the end of his term as Zifa board member in charge of marketing, believes being an “outsider” on the outgoing board not only made him realise how badly football was being run in the country, but instilled a burning desire in him to want to correct things.

53-year-old Munyati, co-director of the famed Aces Youth Soccer Academy, last week filed nomination papers to challenge incumbent Cuthbert Dube for the position of Zifa president at elections set for March 29. 

In a four-horse race for the biggest post in Zimbabwean football, Munyati and Dube appear the frontrunners in an election also being contested by former Dynamos and PSL secretary-general Leslie Gwindi and ex- Zifa chairman Trevor Carelse-Juul.

On the last day of nominations on Friday, Munyati and the other three contenders paid $5 000 each as nomination fee, a payment Munyati says he made under protest.

“We are now a nation where leadership is defined by money,” Munyati, a marketing expert based in Harare, said in a wide-ranging interview with this paper on Tuesday.

“It’s a cancer which is destroying our society. Our nation has become a victim of this money culture.”

Turning to his decision to challenge his boss of four years for the much-anticipated March 29 polls, Munyati said he had been appalled by the way the game was being administered by a “bloc” on the board which he did not belong to, a coalition which rendered him helpless when it came to important decisions concerning the association and football in general.  

Munyati said Zifa had failed to reform quickly enough during Cuthbert Dube’s tenure as president.

“I am motivated by my experience as a Zifa board member over the last four years. As a professional football administrator who has been in football for the last 29 years, I can’t stand by as the house of football burns. Since we came into office four years ago, those lofty problems continue despite our promises and manifestos of four years ago. I do believe I can do things differently, I believe I can do things better. Football administration is not rocket science. Our nature has made it complicated.

“Our football lacks leadership; it lacks visionary leadership, its lacks professionalism. The way Cuthbert Dube runs the board is not professional at all.

“There are certain things that require passion. Cuthbert Dube is not passionate about football. Football is just another activity that he does. If he is passionate about football, how come in four years he has been to the stadium for less than four games? It is by going to games that you understand certain things, than to have proxies reporting back to you all the time. You can’t be a cellphone president and expect to achieve success.

“A classic example was a Chan, where we recorded one of our biggest achievements in the history of our nation’s football. He wasn’t part of it. He did not go to South Africa for Chan. Even at the send-off, he wasn’t there. It was the minister (of Sport) who was there and also came to South Africa to give the boys morale support. Yet he (Dube) was supposed to be the man at the centre of his association’s success.”

RESTORING FOOTBALL’S PURITY: Nigel Munyati believes his experiences over the last four years is a perfect fit for the Zifa presidency.

Munyati, who was the head-of-delegation at the Chan finals, where Zimbabwe reached the semi-finals, says the local football governing body’s leadership has not met to discuss the outcome of the tournament and is unlikely to do so in the last two weeks of its term. 

“I have not seen him (Dube) since November, I would expect the president and board to meet me for a post mortem of Chan and map the way forward. I wrote a report to the board, I haven’t got a response. Is that how you run a sport? That’s borders on negligence. It’s like a parent who doesn’t know where his child is, only to start running around when she comes back home pregnant.

“I don’t think Cuthbert Dube is good for football. I’m sorry. It’s not personal. My motivation is football.”

Explaining why he regarded himself as an outcast on the Dube-led board, Munyati revealed he had initially been invited as a “running mate” in 2010 by former PSL chairman Tapiwa Mashingaidze, who withdrew from the Zifa presidency race on last minute back four years ago.

“I was disappointed when Tapiwa withdrew,” Munyati said. “But I decided to stand as an individual for a board member position and I was elected. They (other board members) came in as a bloc, I was always an outsider. I wasn’t part of the original team.

“I decided to fight within the system. Someone asked why I didn’t resign when I realised how bad things were. I couldn’t. If I had decided to step aside there would have been capitulation. The fact remains that because I didn’t resign, I managed to bring some sanity on the Zifa board.”

Munyati claims he was so resented to the extent that his board colleagues scuttled a Puma kit deal he had brokered, worth $1,5 million over three years.

“I actually found a technical partner in Puma. I engaged Puma in early 2011. All along I had been keeping the board appraised. Even the Fifa consultants who came to help us actually sanctioned the deal. We got to a stage where Puma tabled a contract proposal worth half a million a year. We would have done a lot with that money. The board turned it down saying ‘let’s go to tender because we are in the era of indigenisation’. Look, football gear has become so advanced and scientific and none of our local manufacturers could produce kit of that same quality.

“In the end I was in the minority. Board decisions are made by consensus. The CEO was mandated to work on the process to go to tender in 2012. A year passed and nothing was done. I realised they didn’t want to go to tender, they didn’t wanted the Puma deal. They wanted frustrate me. It was personal.

“And I’m saying I want to change the nature of how football is run. I have done it in my own business and corporate activities and I can do it easily in football.”

If elected into office, Munyati said he will take technical aspects of the game a lot more seriously and introduce modern methods of coaching, one area which has been lacking in Zimbabwean football.  

“Football is an evolutionary process, we have senior players who have weak fundamental skills. They will dribble and make fans go ‘wow!’, but at the end it doesn’t work. It requires someone to sit back and make that analysis. Dube could not do that.”

Munyati also showered praise on Warriors coach Ian Gorowa, who he said has exceeded expectations in the short period he has been in charge of the team.

Gorowa has however been at loggerheads lately with Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze over employment and commercial differences involving his contract and the Umbro kit deal, with souring relations between the two resulting in a barrage of name-calling and derision in the media. 

“Right now we have a coach, Ian Gorowa, who is scientific in his coaching approach. Ian and I come a long way. I don’t want to claim credit, but it was me who was influential in engaging Ian when everyone wanted to continue with (Klaus-Dieter) Pagels. Ian used to come for our games a year or two before he was appointed Warriors coach. He would have pen and pad, jotting down notes. For me, that says something about an individual. I believe people like Ian are an important component of the future.

“But look at what is happening to him right now. He is already being frustrated. Despite promises that the president would pay his salary, he only got a small allowance that ended in November. How do you expect the guy to remain motivated?

“Before Chan he went to companies and sought funds for the team. He managed to get airfares for the team to fly to Cape Town. And someone wants to find fault in what he has done. It’s deplorable.”

The Aces Youth Soccer Academy (Aysa), co-run with Swizz national Marc Duvillard, will be a huge trump card for Munyati in the election. Aysa has produced an array of red-hot talent now forming the core of the current Zimbabwe national side.

Such players as George Chigova, Lincoln Zvasiya, Abbas Amidu, Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona are some of the Warriors gems unearthed by Aysa.

‘Development is a comprehensive step-by-step process,” Munyati said.

“Look at Switzerland, if you’d spoken of Swizz football 10 years ago people would have laughed at you. Now they are ranked seven in the world and seeded at the World Cup. It didn’t come by chance.

“It’s a result of planning. In Zimbabwe, our football is accident football. It just happen. We need a system that grooms talent from grassroots to league football. I won’t be a president who says I am only here for Zifa. The success of league football reflects at national team level. I will go to a game in Hwange because that’s where you get a feel of things.

“Development is key. I have shown it in my own way that it works. Since 2006 my academy has been the single biggest contributor to growth in Zimbabwean football in terms of talent. Look at the success of the Under-17 team which had Khama, Knowledge and Abbas. It has come all the way to the national team.

“I want to have such centres as Aysa throughout the country. I want to have 20 to 50 centres like mine throughout the country. Each province would have its centre of development, with a Zifa-employed officer response for development.”

As Zifa enters the election homestretch, Munyati claims vote-buying is rife, and threaten to dent the credibility of the election.

A 58-member Zifa Council, made up of different stakeholders from across the country, elects the association’s president and board members.

“The system of paid patronage has got to end,” Munyati said. “It’s like ‘I pay you to vote for me, so you are indebted to me for the next four years until I get to pay you again. If you are not doing anything in your province I will turn a blind eye because you are my partner, my friend’.”

Asked if he had evidence of any vote-buying, having been a Zifa board member for four solid years, Munyati answered:  “There is no doubt that there is manipulation in the election process, where people get greased.  Do I have evidence? No. But it’s such a big challenge that even people are saying to me if you don’t pay you are not gonna win votes. If I fail to win because I didn’t buy votes, at least I would have stood on a matter of principle.

“I will not pay you to vote for me. But I will make you succeed in your constituencies of football where you come from. If you are not in it for the game, what are you there for? You would have betrayed. In this day and age, how can you be owned by another man? We need to get rid of this culture of patronage.”

Munyati, however, is convinced he will be swept into office by the majority of voters come March 29.  

“I believe there is always good in all of us. Intrinsically, we all want to do good, although there are certain people you will never change,” he said.

“The majority of councillors are able to see what is right and what is wrong. We have 58 councillors. At least 30 are willing to vote for the future, rather than take us back to the old sordid age of patronage.”

Munyati said he will launch his campaign manifesto in the next few days.

(With the watershed Zifa board elections fast approaching, the Daily News will in the build-up to the polls run interviews of the four contenders vying for the association’s presidency. We call upon those with the voting privilege to make a wise choice for the future of Zimbabwean football).

Comments (6)

kuti Munyati ndokuti bhora.

igwe - 19 March 2014

Wise words Mr Munyati and I sincerely hope people will vote for people with football at heart not those who want to make a name by sitting on several boards.

Mamoyo - 19 March 2014

Wise words Mr.Munyati.One need to have a passion in football.Interest at heart and not just a seat at Zifa House.Go ouit in the rural areas and promote soccer.You will be shocked the potential one would get.Good luck Nigel hoping for the best.

Tom Nyirenda - 20 March 2014

Uyu ndiye munhu webhora uyu. Please vote overwhelmingly for this guy imi ma Zifa counsillors mese. Ano vhotera Cashbert toziva zvinenge zvaitika.

Tich - 21 March 2014

VaMunyati ndizvo tisape Kazibeti mbavha another chance.

achimangeni - 21 March 2014

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