Chiyangwa hails special Namibia, Zim relations

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Chiyangwa hails special Namibia, Zim relations

THE SouthernTIMES Mar 20, 2018

    Robson Sharuko

    Harare – cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa says Namibia and Zimbabwe share a special bond, both in politics and football, and no one – including those mandated with leading their national sporting organisations – can put a wedge between the two sisterly nations.   

    The COSAFA boss has been in the news in both Zimbabwe and Namibia in the past week after reports emerged that he was allegedly manhandled by Namibia Football Association (NFA) secretary-general Barry Rukoro in Johannesburg two weeks ago.

    Rukoro denies the allegations that he manhandled Chiyangwa but claims there was a heated debate between the two when they met at a Johannesburg hotel during a COSAFA executive committee meeting and his critics, including the NFA boss Frans Mbidi, have been trying to use the incident to nail him.

    The NFA’s top two officials, the president and the secretary-general, have been stuck in a vicious power struggle with the latter accusing his boss of trying to block the extension of his term, as the chief of the secretariat at the country’s football controlling body.

    Mbidi, who is also the COSAFA vice-president, denies the allegations but insists that there is a need for a clean-up exercise at the NFA by getting rid of some people who were not adding value to the organisation and the game.

    Rukoro says Mbidi has been trying to use the Johannesburg incident to nail him as a violent and wayward administrator who does not deserve to be part of the national football leadership in Namibia.

    “All I did was to confirm with Chiyangwa if the version I heard is indeed true and how he is planning to deal with me and the NFA executive in a matter that does not in any way affect COSAFA,” Rukoro told the New Era newspaper.

    “He confirmed to me that Mbidi is pumping him up with a lot of stories about me and the NFA Executive, which is apparently not supporting him to get rid of me.

    “My discussion with Chiyangwa was a little heated but no scuffle took place. It is easy to establish if indeed there was anything like a scuffle or not, as our discussion took place at the centre of the hotel lobby at lunch. How come nobody saw a scuffle?”

    “Mbidi has been gossiping and spreading lies about me and the entire NFA Exco at continental and sub-continental events.

    “He took a purely national matter to a sub-continental platform. The question is what does COSAFA have to do with what is purely an NFA labour issue?

    “Apart from the fact that Mbidi went about gossiping and spreading lies about NFA internal affairs, COSAFA president Chiyangwa even went ahead to discuss this matter at a COSAFA executive committee meeting.

    “That was completely out of order. Mbidi is going around telling people that he will not organise an NFA Exco meeting for fear that his letter to me may be reversed by the NFA Executive but he chose to seek support against me on the international fora.

    “That is not only disrespecting the NFA Executive but also undermining the NFA and Namibia’s ability to deal with our own issues. I was told by a COSAFA member that Mbidi, with the support of Chiyangwa, wants to deal with me and the NFA Executive and that Chiyangwa was ready to assist Mbidi in that regard.”

    A WhatsApp conversation between Chiyangwa and Football Association of Zambia boss, Andrew Kamanga, appeared to talk about an attack.

    “We need to talk. Mbidi’s SG (secretary general) attacked me at the hotel,” Chiyangwa wrote to Kamanga, who responded “I saw that and was wondering where it came from.”

    Chiyangwa told The Southern Times that rather than fuel the flames, as leader of COSAFA, he would take the diplomatic route to try and ensure that football unites, rather than divide, the countries in the region.

    “Football is a very popular sport in our region, it is also very powerful and we need to harness its popularity and power to ensure that we unite our countries and our people rather than divide them and, as the leader of COSAFA, that is my mission,” said Chiyangwa.

    “Of course, there is a lot of emotion in football and a lot of disputes and come characters don’t understand what it means to be called leaders and the responsibility that comes with such positions but, as the COSAFA president, I will not lower myself to that level because my mission is to try and ensure that we remained a united and vibrant bloc.

    “We have received a lot of commendation from around the world as a vibrant regional bloc, which is doing more than a lot of other regional blocs to promote football in our region and we have to continue walking that good path.

    “Of course, along the way, there will become people who want to divide us, who believe they are bigger than the sport, but it’s our responsibility as leaders to ensure that we don’t let such people emerge the victors at the expense of football.

    “When you look at Namibia and Zimbabwe, you see two countries that share a lot in common and who are very friendly sisterly nations and let’s not try and use our positions as leaders, especially in sport, to try and create divisions which are not necessary but we have to work harder to ensure that we continue to strengthen that bond.

    “When we face each other in international football matches, we compete hard but at the end of the day, we have to congratulate the winner and hope that the losers will also get their chance to win some time in the future.

    “We were knocked out by Namibia in the CHAN qualifier and there was a lot of controversy related to the way that we lost that game, in that penalty shootout, which led to us filing a complaint with the CAF leadership so that they could see where we believed the rules had been violated.

    “But when our appeal was not successful, we didn’t begrudge Namibia forever but, instead, we were the only nation that went to Windhoek for a friendly international against them to help them prepare for the CHAN finals where they did very well and that shows how close we are as nations.”

    Chiyangwa says discussing the incident in Johannesburg two weeks ago in the media would be a failure on his part in terms of discharging his duties as the leader of COSAFA.

    “I don’t want to reduce myself to the level where I discuss such issues in the media because the bigger picture for me is to ensure that I try and unite our nations and our region using the power of football and that is what I am going to do,” he said.

    Rukoro once described Chiyangwa’s predecessor Cuthbert Dube and his ZIFA board as a “leadership of fools”, during a nasty fallout over Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet in 2010.

    ZIFA had poached Saintfiet from the NFA to coach the Zimbabwe Warriors while the Belgian coach still had a pending contract with the Namibians.

    The then Zimbabwe Ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga, was forced to write to her principals in Harare updating them on the diplomatic challenges posed by the fallout.

    “The secretary-general of the Namibia Football Association, Barry Rukoro, has launched an all-out attack against the ZIFA board over the ‘poaching’ of Tom Saintfiet, as the new Warriors coach,” wrote Zindoga.

    “Rukoro, who has declared a warpath against ZIFA, has indicated that NFA will lodge a formal complaint with FIFA against ZIFA for not adhering to the rules of football.

    “While the NFA had previously lumped the blame on the Belgian born coach for breach of contract, the blame has now been shifted to the ZIFA board, whom Rukoro is referring to as ‘a leadership of fool’, wrote Zindoga.

    “He is further quoted as saying, ‘they think they are untouchables and we are just going to fold our arms just because they are Zimbabweans.’

    “The Saintfiet issue is certainly assuming political dimensions with far-reaching political ramifications, which calls for the prudent handling of the matter.”

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