Football person must lead Zifa

HARARE - In 2012, Zambia became only the third southern African country (after South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo) to win the Africa cup Nations (Afcon) trophy after many years of soul searching.

Some superstitious people believe that the Zambians won it simply because one of the countries that co-hosted the tournament was Gabon, a country where the Zambian national soccer team had perished in a plane crash in 1993.

So those of superstitious disposition believe that the spirits of the dead players pushed Chipolopolo to win the tournament in 2012 ?after beating the mighty Ivorians in a penalty shootout.

I do not believe in superstitions but I cannot question the integrity of those who believe in them, after all Africans are “notoriously religious” (to quote one famous Kenyan philosopher — John Mbiti) to the extent that they believe that money can multiply in someone’s bank account or that there is an anointed pen that can help pupils pass exams.

Some of those who do not subscribe to the above view, however, believe that the Zambians won it because time had come for them to win it and that they had built a very strong squad that revolved around talismanic striker Christopher Katongo and veteran goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene, two guys who had seen it all in football.

Well, compared to the other squads that had emerged from Zambia after the disaster of 1993, I would not say this was the best squad in terms of individual talent, but of course in terms of team spirit, I will be tempted to say that this was a well-coordinated but average squad.

Some of those who do not subscribe to the first and second views argue that the Zambians won it all because of the shrewdness of their French-born coach Herve Renard.

The Frenchman has been hailed as one of the best foreign coaches to have managed football in Africa. Of course, no one can question the brilliance of Renard given that he won the tournament again in 2015 with Ivory Coast. This view would be more attractive to most football followers.

While to some extent, I subscribe to this view, I also believe that it will not be fair to talk about Zambia’s success story without mentioning the name of the legendary Kalusha Bwalya who is the president of the Football Association of Zambia (Faz) during the time. Very often, administrators are forgotten when the national team wins a trophy. Only coaches and players are hailed.

In our own situation, the moment one mentions the success of our Warriors in 2004 and 2006, people will be quick to remember the names of coaches Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri respectively, and players Peter Ndlovu and Shingi Kawondera respectively. Very few will remember that Rafiq Khan was the Zifa president.

It is always like that in my profession, people do not remember the law lecturer, they will always remember the lawyer.

People will not remember the professor of medicine but the medical practitioner or the doctor who was produced by the professor.

People will not remember the philosophy professor but the philosopher he or she produced. It’s a crazy world. 

Coming back to Bwalya, I believe his experience as a former footballer helped Zambia to win the Afcon in 2012 more than anything.

You will remember that prior to the 2012 tournament, the Zambians had played many friendly matches with competitive nations, and it takes a visionary leader and someone who is passionate about football to do that. 

As a former player, Bwalya knew that the welfare of players was key if success was to be realised and so he made sure that the players had everything they needed in terms of welfare and preparations.

Bwalya, himself is not a rich man like former Zifa president Cuthbert Dube of Zimbabwe, but his visionary leadership saw Zambia winning the coveted trophy for the first time. There are many self-proclaimed prophets in Zambia, just as we have them in Zimbabwe, but we never heard that at some point, the welfare of Chipolopolo players was catered for by a renowned “Man of God” or “Woman of God”.

As we think about the  December 5 Zifa elections, let us not be swayed by money or affluence, let us learn from our neighbours Zambia in order to make wise decisions. 

I can assure you, no amount of wealth or flamboyance will save our football. We need people who know football and who have a passion for the game after having played the game.

I have no doubt, people like James Takavada, having played football at the highest level and having administered it at some point, can save our football better than those who want to showcase their wealth, flamboyance and power.

Well, it is up to the Zifa Electoral College to make decisions that will impact our football or we will go back to the Cuthbert Dube era where the national team had become a subject of scorn. 

Mangena is a Business Ethics lecturer and consultant. He is also a fan of Arsenal FC, Real Madrid and CAPS United. He can be contacted at

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