insidesport:with MICHAEL KARIATI
THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has built itself a bad name in its long history to the extent that even the good they have done has not been taken seriously.
Sponsors continue to shy away from the domestic game and the few who have come on board have left vowing never to return to the most followed sport in the country.
This has been caused by successive Zifa leaderships whose countless blunders have forced the football public and the nation at large to believe that nothing good comes out of the offices at 53 Livingstone Avenue in the capital.
Even those who have come on board at the football headquarters — promising heaven on earth — have failed to change the perception.
Even some of Zifa’s affiliates like the Regions, the Provinces and the Districts have also been caught up in the crossfire to the extent that no attention is paid to them even if they are moving in the right direction.
An example is the project at the Zifa Northern Region where the Player and Coach of the Year receive motor vehicles, but sadly, has not received the recognition, it deserves — simply because it’s coming from a Zifa affiliate.
It is a project that was pioneered long back by the late Northern Region chairman Willard Manyengavana and secretary-general Sweeney Mushonga, and has now been taken over by new region chairman Martin Kweza with Mushonga still at hand.
Fine, some might not like Kweza and Mushonga —for other reasons — but we cannot run away from the fact that their project is bringing in some positive results to the Zimbabwean game of football.
Some might say: “what is a car after all?” The question is: How many coaches or players can afford to buy such vehicles from their savings and in general, how many of us have dreamt of buying such cars and failed?
The fact remains that such recognition to players and coaches carries a lot of weight not only on the football front, but also in the communities we live.
Imagine what is happening to aspiring young footballers when they see a 19-year-old like Cranbourne Bullets’ Kelvin Chibunyu driving around in a brand new US$5 000 Nissan Tiida sedan.
Imagine what is happening to coaches in the lower divisions and others in the Premiership when they see Nesbert Saruchera driving around in a Nissan Allion given to him as a reward for winning the Northern Region First Division championship.
“Our aim is to promote teams and players who would be a force to reckon with in the Premier League. We are going to continue giving our players and coaches meaningful rewards,” says Kweza.
Surely, there have been other Northern Region Player of the Year winners like Evans Katema and Blessing Majarira who have gone on to play for the national team, while the likes of Zivanai Mhanda and Herbert Rusawo continue to be an integral part of the Zimbabwean game at the highest level.
Even the sponsors are smiling from the impact of this project. After starting off with World Navi, the region’s leadership has now persuaded Ruyamuro Holdings to come on board to sponsor the Player of the Year Award while Brand Port (Private) Limited sponsor the Coach of the Year Award.
Mushonga mentions that they have a four-year marriage with Ruyamuro Holdings which expires next year and negotiations would be opened soon for an extension.
This Northern Region initiative has taught the football family that rewarding exceptional talent does not only come in the form of financial terms, but also in something that lasts as long as it is preserved.
With the Zimbabwean economy being what it is today, what is happening at the Northern Region should be a test case for the Premier Soccer League whether to continue giving out financial rewards to their outstanding footballers or decide on something the players will have in their possession for a long time.
The other lesson that has also come out of the Northern Region experience is that Zifa affiliates should strive to do things on their own rather than wait to be spoonfed by the parent body — which itself is not self-sufficient.
The truth is that Zifa cannot do everything for all its affiliates and it is time for all of them to try to survive on their own rather than wait to be spoonfed.
In addition to the existing awards, Mushonga mentions that they have also secured monthly and yearly sponsorship for the best goalkeeper, top goalscorer and team of the year for the 2020 season.
The Northern Region have set an example that other Zifa organs should follow. After all, there is something positive that is coming out of 53 Livingstone Avenue.
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