by Grace Chingoma
GOVERNMENT yesterday joined the majority of the domestic football family in condemning zifa’s abrupt move to fire national coach Callisto Pasuwa ahead of the 2016 African Nations Championships and want the association’s board to rescind its decision. Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane yesterday said he had also asked zifa president Philip Chiyangwa to cut short his leave and return to work to resolve the crisis sparked by the sacking of Pasuwa and the dissolution of the Warriors camp.
zifa vice president Omega Sibanda stunned the country on Thursday when he announced that they had fired Pasuwa and his entire technical team and had asked players to abandon their training camp until further notice.
The players have since returned to their homes, throwing into doubt the proposed international friendly between Zimbabwe and Cameroon at Rufaro on December 27. But it is the decision to dismiss Pasuwa which did not amuse Hlongwane and the minister said he had directed the Sport and Recreation Commission to help zifa resolve the problems they are facing.
Crucially, Hlongwane wants Chiyangwa as the zifa boss, to return to duty and restore order in his house which has been burning after the decision to fire Pasuwa torched a storm that reverberated across the country and beyond its borders.
Hlongwane, speaking at a Press conference where he was flanked by Sports Commission acting board chairperson Edward Siwela, made it clear that zifa had to rescind their decision and re-engage the former Dynamos coach.
The minister questioned the timing of the zifa move and felt the association needed to put more emphasis on the Warriors’ preparations ahead of the chan tournament which will run in Rwanda from January 16 to February 7.
Chiyangwa, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, is in South Africa together with chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze for the cosafa annual meeting scheduled for Johannesburg this morning. The minister, however, said he had earlier spoken to Chiyangwa before the media briefing.
“I did have a discussion with him (Chiyangwa) on the telephone and I asked him to make sure that he is back home as soon as possible and address this matter and put it to a close because we don’t want this conflict or misunderstanding to continue on a protracted scale.
“We believe that zifa have an obligation to account to the nation of Zimbabwe, issues of stability in the administration of football and we are disappointed that such a major decision was taken without depth in consultation with all the stakeholders, including SRC, including ourselves as the ministry and several other football stakeholders who would have provided advice, had they been engaged before this announcement was made.
“It is important that we talk to Dr Chiyangwa and understand whether or not he would be coming to resolve this matter. As the ministry through SRC we have directed that.
“Early morning around 5am, I called (the) chair of SRC (Siwela) to ask him to engage with the zifa board with a view to mediate in the differences that have arisen between the zifa board and the technical team.
“I got a report from SRC, a few hours ago, that they had fruitful deliberations and they pointed out all the issues that are within the statement and we think are important for all our football stakeholders to understand,” said Hlongwane.
Hlongwane said he is fully behind Pasuwa whom he believes has proved to everyone that he is the right man for the job. “As authorities on sport we are very happy that we could use home-grown coaches. “We think coach Pasuwa has done a good job with the boys under very difficult circumstances often going without being paid for very long periods.
“Those are matters that I think football authorities should pay attention to, obviously this is a new zifa board, and these are residual matters that they find on the table. But the best way is not to ignore those matters. Again, I don’t come from a school of thought that if you disagree with somebody, you fire them. I think that you must to the best extent possible sit down, deploy all instruments available to your disposal by making sure that there is discussion, especially given the character of football in Zimbabwe that it is a natural asset.
“It evokes feelings of happiness and it mobilises the whole country, you know around this one project we call football. I think this is a big lesson for football authorities in the country, I think they need to very quickly understand that they need to sit down and understand the issues before making major decisions,” said Hlongwane.
Siwela weighed in and said the Sports Commission had a meeting with the acting president Sibanda to iron out the issues.
“We went over the issues and we did of course highlight the effects of the decision that have been taken, which agrees with the observation that the minister has already made that, one, we really are on the eve of Rwanda chan finals and doesn’t really make sense on this juncture to disengage an otherwise successful technical team.
“We do so sometimes without adequate consultation. Our meeting went on well and we believe that employing our role as SRC, as you know one of our roles as the SRC is actually to give advice to those in charge of our national associations, we have actually given advice to zifa through their vice-president who is currently the acting president Omega Sibanda, to effect that they need to resolve the problems with the technical team, and our view, which we gave to them is that they need to re engage the technical team,” said Siwela.
Hlongwane, then released a statement after a brief with Sports Commission and implored the football mother body to remember that they are also accountable for the decisions they make.
“The Minister of Sport and Recreation today learnt with shock the news of the firing of one of Zimbabwe’s most successful and illustrious technical teams headed by coach Callisto Pasuwa.
“The Ministry would like to point out that coach Pasuwa has been very successful in his career with the national team and that all differences with zifa should be resolved amicably. “The Minister observes that the dispute between zifa and Pasuwa is a labour dispute which must be resolved by negotiating and cajoling with a view to achieving an amicable solution to the misunderstanding.
“The Minister further observes that appointing a new technical team with only a few days left to participate in the finals of chan 2016 in Rwanda may derail the preparations of the Warriors, since the new technical team will need time to acquaint itself with the task at hand.
“The Ministry observes that coach Pasuwa and his technical team have given their all with unmatched dedication and commitment to national duty even as they have gone for months without being paid by their employer.
“The Minister therefore implores the football authorities to:
(1) Understand that football is a game of the people, a national project, a national asset and due care must be taken when making decisions that have the potential to destroy the rhythm of the game.
(2) The football authorities “zifa” must understood that they are also accountable to the nation of Zimbabwe to deliver stability in the administration of football and results on the pitch.
(3) The new zifa board must take due care not to be arrested by residual zifa conflicts and needless boardroom squabbling that have the potential of destroying football.
(4) It is also important that zifa takes time to apply itself to matters of national interest before announcing major decisions that have disruptive capacity and have a potential of injuring the national psych.
(5) The technical team is urged to discuss its differences with zifa away from the media with an intention of always arriving at an amicable solution.
(6) Therefore, as Minister of Sport and Recreation, I have asked Dr Philip Chiyangwa, the president of zifa, to come out of his leave in order to attend to this potentially crippling and rather unnecessary dispute,” read the statement.