FAILED states provide a permissive environment for mediocrity to thrive across multiple facets of any nation’s life.
It is hard to expect other things to work in a country that continues to sink deeper and deeper into socio-economic meltdown at the mercy of a corrupt ruling class preoccupied with power retention at the expense of the nation’s progress.
Such is the case with Zimbabwe and, indeed, sport is one of the sectors that mirror where we are as a nation at the moment.
The missed obligations and inadequate sense of responsibility stick out like a sore thumb on both fronts.
From the barefaced and archaic methods of governance by those with state power, to condemning a once proud nation to the humiliation of playing an international “home” match away in Rwanda because the country does not have a single standard stadium.
Zimbabwe has hosted Nigeria in a football World Cup qualifier at Huye Stadium in the Rwandese town of Butare, after failing to upgrade its stadia nearly four years after Fifa initially suspended the country’s grounds in February 2020.
The Warriors are not the only team though that has been forced to host their games away from their fans. 17 out of 53 African teams have this past week been playing their home World Cup qualifiers in other countries following a strict policy by the Confederation of African Football (Caf) in 2021 to make member nations renovate existing infrastructure or even better build modern brand new stadiums.
But that is no excuse for Zimbabwe, who call themselves a footballing nation, a country with an abundance of natural resources.
Not to mention that some of the continent’s poorest countries by GDP per capita, much poorer than Zimbabwe, have the Caf-approved facilities to play their games in their own countries.
In Zimbabwe’s case, this can only be a question of lack of will and dearth of leadership by the direct administrators of football, the other sporting bodies in between, and all the way up to the relevant government ministry.
While we have accepted the reality that this government will not meaningfully bail out sport, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa), like other national federations in the world, receive money from the international governing body Fifa in the form of grants. The funding has continued to improve, thanks to the Fifa Goal Project.
When Zimbabwe’s Fifa ban was lifted in July after 17 months in the wilderness, part of a financial package of US$6 million – to come over a year until next July – was immediately released from Zurich.
For four months – before Nigeria was due to land in Harare for the 19 November qualifier – Zifa’s normalisation committee had ample time to bring at least one of the grounds in the country up to standard. They did nothing. This committee has been at sixes and sevens since its appointment in July, in complete disarray, spending precious time firefighting instead of trying to create a legacy in their short spell at the helm.
We are however at this point stuck with the lot. They cannot be touched because they are there for the very reason that caused Zimbabwe’s suspension by Fifa – government interference.
But then again, even if something could be done, it is double standards for any of us to expect the government to sincerely act against the bungling folks at Zifa. Which government? Surely not this one that has rendered its football team homeless by failing, or refusing, to revamp a national stadium it owns and administers.
Certainly not this government that has itself left a trail of destruction across the country for decades.