WICKNELL CHIVAYO has an army of fierce critics who take offence with his flashy lifestyle, and candid — if not controversial — comments about a number of issues but even the tsunami, triggered by his spectacular fallout with some sections of the local media, will not wash away his eternal gift to Zimbabwe football. And that gift isn’t the vehicle he secured for Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa, the car he got for Mighty Warriors gaffer Shadreck Mlauzi, or the various amounts of money he has dished out to the national teams in the past four months.
Or the $20 000 he gave to the Warriors, for their upkeep at the 2016 African Nations Championship in Rwanda, the $72 000 he says he gave the senior national team for their 2017 Nations Cup qualifier against Swaziland or the brand new Samsung smartphones he handed to every member of that victorious team that hammered Sihlangu 4-0 at the National Sports Stadium.Instead, it will be that timely financial injection, just weeks after the ZIFA Board led by Philip Chiyangwa had taken over the running of Zimbabwe football — weighed down by a $6 million debt — which ensured the Warriors would not be expelled from the 2022 World Cup qualifiers without kicking a ball.
The Harare businessman announced yesterday that he was ending his sponsorship of the Warriors because he felt his image had been tarnished by an article, carried by our sister newspaper The Sunday Mail, which suggested that Pasuwa has endured two months of hell in which he hasn’t been paid his salary. Chivayo, who pledged to pump $1 million into the ZIFA coffers over the next three years, committed to paying Pasuwa’s salary of about $7 000 a month, coming on board at a time when the relationship between the coach and his employers had been strained by a number of issues.
He then went on to secure a brand new vehicle for the coach, the first time that the Warriors’ coach had been handed an official car to use since Sunday Chidzambwa, who replaced Brazilian gaffer Valinhos, was handed one through a facility put together by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe in 2009. Chivayo also handed each member of the Warriors a brand new Samsung phone, following their victory over Swaziland in a 2017 Nations Cup qualifier on Easter Monday, while also rewarding Costa Nhamoinesu and Knowledge Musona with $1 000 each for their outstanding performances on the day. He said he has pumped out $600 000 into football, in the past three months, including a $72 000 injection into the Warriors for their 2017 Nations Cup qualifier against Swaziland, while also dangling a $250 000 carrot for the team to qualify for Gabon. Yesterday he announced that while he will continue to pay Pasuwa’s salary for the next year, he would not be injecting any funds, or handing any material support, for the Warriors.
“To cut a long story short THIS OFFICIALLY MARKS THE END of my sponsorship for the WARRIORS for 2016,” Chivayo posted on his Facebook page yesterday. “It takes a lot of love to spend 600 thousand dollars on people you don’t know or are even related to so you will all appreciate my reasons for reacting this way in the circumstances.“I can’t tolerate ungrateful people and i will never take this type of rubbish in my life. It’s a different thing if I wasn’t paying their bills and giving them money immediately upon request. “However, having said that as a gesture and as a level headed person I will go ahead and set up the escrow account today and make sure PASUWA’s one-year salary is secured . . . Other than that for now I will also give others a chance to support NATIONAL PRIDE . . . GO WARRIORS GO . . . ALL THE BEST TO AFCON.”
For a country still reeling from the Warriors’ expulsion from the 2018 World Cup, without kicking a ball, for the sins of their football leaders who failed to pay Brazilian coach Valinhos despite repeated warnings from FIFA of the grim consequences of their shortcomings, being barred from playing in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers would have been a hammer blow for the game in this country.It would have meant that the golden generation, led by Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, would have had just one shot at playing at the World Cup in their careers, when they featured in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup finals, with the Warriors ending winless in the six matches that they played. For Musona and Billiat would be about 36, when the 2028 World Cup qualifiers finally get underway, and — even though a number of footballers have played for their countries at that age — it’s something that is very rare in this country and, the safe bet would be on them having called time on their international careers.
But, with the January 4, 2016 deadline looming, for ZIFA to pay Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet $185 000 for his short-lived stint with the Warriors in 2010, or face the possibility of Zimbabwe being expelled out of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, chances of Musona and Billiat having another World Cup dance looked gloomy. And, just a few days before the deadline lapsed, Chivayo stepped onto the scene and his dissolution of the Saintfiet debt, starting with the $50 000 payment he made in December and the subsequent payments that followed in January, ensured that Zimbabwe would remain in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
It gave Musona and Billiat, who will be about 30 when the 2022 World Cup qualifiers get underway, another chance for a shot at playing at the globe’s biggest football festival, while providing hope for the likes of Marvellos Nakamba, who will be about 26 that time, and Tatenda Mukuruva, who will be about 24 that time, an opportunity to battle plunge into World Cup battles at the very peak of their careers.For five years we had watched, helplessly, as a nation as the Valinhos issue remained unresolved until FIFA finally ran out of patience and, with just the stroke of a pen, sent a statement to ZIFA that the Warriors had been expelled from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.
That marked the lowest point in Zimbabwe football, the first time that the country had been barred from the biggest football showcase on the globe, and the country’s reputation took a dig as its fiercest critics questioned how an entire nation would fail to raise $82 000. And Warriors’ skipper, Willard Katsande, spoke about the pain inflicted among the players by the Warriors’ expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.“For me, it is over. The next qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup may start around 2019 and by that time I would be 30 years and my legs would be gone,” said Katsande.“There would be new blood in the team.
I believe at the moment we have good players and all the players in the team are in form at their clubs but due to circumstances beyond us, we cannot compete in the World Cup qualifiers.“My teammate Shabba (Siphiwe Tshabalala, Khune (Itumeleng) and Letsholonyane (Reneilwe) always tell me how good it is to play at the World Cup and say that it is a feeling which you can’t describe and I would also have wanted to experience that. “But that can only be done if you participate in the qualifiers and, then, maybe qualify. It’s worrying to hear about disturbing football developments back home. I am proud to be a Zimbabwean.
We are here as ambassadors and expect good news all the time but the reports about our football we get here are always negative and depressing and it affects us here.“It is painful and it’s a shame because even our teammates acknowledge that we are talented as a country but fail to understand how we manage our football and they sometimes laugh at us.”At least, the Warriors will play in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers and, for a generation of the country’s football stars and their fans, that means a lot.