Zim football industry tumbles as inactivity takes its toll

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By Goodwill Zunidza, Harare

The horrible effects of Zimbabwe’s agonizing football inactivity are starting to mount with chaotic scenes now the order of the day.   

Reports from around the corners of an action-starved country point to anarchy in club boardrooms, conflicts over expired contracts and premature retirement of players.

Just this week Highlanders, regarded as one of, if not the most stable local football team, had their camp in flames after the executive committee’s term of office was extended unconstitutionally following its expiry during the course of the Covid19-induced lockdown.

The move has seen the Bulawayo team’s board of directors, to whom ernomous respect is often given, come under a barrage of critical attacks.

Challengers seeking to replace incumbent club chairman Kenneth Mhlophe are alleging underhand deals between members of the board and the embattled army colonel (retired) to keep him at the saddle.

The matter has spilled to the courts with Josphat Sibanda, a businessman eyeing the chairmanship, arguing Mhlophe should have vacated office automatically last month when his three-year term came to an end.

In its defence however the board points out the fact that they could not hold an annual general meeting to effect the changes since all public gatherings were banned under the lockdown regulations forcing them to maintain the status quo temporarily.

That such a fiasco can erupt at a normally peaceful institution has sent shockwaves across the Premier Soccer League with fears of a knock-on effect.

Only recently a Caps United director Nhamo Tutisani lambasted the PSL leadership for lack of creative strategies in the face of the pandemic.

Football fans did not miss the irony that Tutisani’s own business partner at Makepekepe, Farai Jere, happens to be the PSL chairman.

Even more troubling have been a multitude of cases of players whose contracts expired at the end of  the last year without them kicking a ball after action was suspended a week to the start of the 2020 season in March.

Among the affected players are some who had hoped to move to new clubs this year but are facing resistance from their current clubs who insist their contracts should be rolled over in line with a Fifa directive that extended the subsistence of contracts expiring during the lockdown period.

Perfect Chikwende’s transfer saga highlights the conflicts of such nature with his move in January to Simba SC of Tanzania from Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum almost failing to materialize after Bulawayo Chiefs staked their claim on the player stating that his loan deal with FCP had lapsed at the end of last year.

The Fifa directive on expiring contracts was also not applied in all befitting situations as several teams lost out on players they had signed for the 2020 season who reverted to their original teams this year.

Another sad development of the lockdown has been the untimely retirement of some of the game’s most loyal servants in the form of Chicken Inn’s Clemence Matawu and Method Mwanjale of Caps United.

The duo with more than 60 years of age between them was bidding to smash the existing records for the longest-serving players but saw their hopes fade with continued non-training.

The ongoing impasse in local football has also claimed the scalp of Harare City, who at one time held the position of the country’s second richest football team and have represented the country in the Caf Confederation Cup.

Harare City gave up their promising project and shut shop putting all their players on the streets and their coaches on the job market.

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