The Sunday Mail
Pardon me for sounding advertorial at the onset but it truly does come down with a refreshingly crisp Castle Lager beer. A favourite of many an imbiber, the somewhat bitter and never sweet alcoholic beverage cannot be labelled as my choice among the litany of wise waters that decorate the deep and cool freezers of our innumerable liquor outlets.
But you have to give in to its power and influence.
It is the premier lager brand from Delta Beverages that, from this weekend brings the local football populace under one roof once again to enjoy and celebrate the world’s most beautiful game while dissecting the topical issues pertaining to it.
Animosities of the elective off-season are now but a bygone whimper, healthy rivalry taking over their place as a budding season, pregnant with emotion and expectation, spreads non-stop across the country’s top football leagues, chiefly the top-flight and the four First Divisions.
Just a rapid recap of the outcome and implications of the football elections that occupied the first quarter of the year and culminated in polls for the Zifa board last weekend, that retired judge Selo Nare, chairman of the Zifa Electoral Committee, quipped “huruyadzo’’.
Football came out of the elections with both old and new wine.
A trio of fresh faces will lead three of the four Zifa regions, namely Eastern, Southern and Central, while there is also a new broom for women football.
But the Northern region stuck to the devil they knew and so did the Premier Soccer League and the main board, whose president will continue to be Cuthbert Dube.
In fact an element of continuity characterised the entire electoral process with the decision-makers bent on maintaining the status quo even if it petrified the overwhelming majority of football-goers and even armchair viewers who were hell-bent on change.
The only change that arrived was in situations where the sitting leadership had itself abdicated as in the case of Fungai Chihuri (Eastern Region), Patrick Hokonya (Central) and Gift Banda (Southern).
Chihuri – though- who is now based in Harare, is still very much in the picture after being elevated to the main board with a significant number of the votes in last weekend’s 58-ballot election.
Even Mavis Gumbo, who raised the bar in terms of national teams’ administration, would have retained her position as Women Soccer League chairperson but for the narrowest losing margin of the exercise in which she surrendered her post to Miriam Sibanda by a 20-22 score.
The biggest impact was made by Trevor Carelse-Juul, the former Zifa chairman who had been away for 21 years but turned up a fortnight before the plebiscite and caused such ripples that he was an odds-on favourite going into the polls.
Carelse-Juul ran on a reformist platform and was supported in his last-minute campaign blitz by the crux of ex-communicated Zifa administrators of yore such as Lazarus Mhurushomana, Francis Zimunya, Susan Chibizhe and Vincent Pamire.
Though his time on the campaign trail was relatively short, the one-time Zifa supremo ended up as the main threat to Dube’s stranglehold on local football, pushing their contest into a re-run after the first round failed to produce a winner.
Leslie Gwindi and Nigel Munyati, the other contestants, bowed out at this instance.
The latter, running on a progressive platform, had enlisted full backing from almost the entire community of retired players, banded under the Zimbabwe Football Legends Association.
Unfortunately, with none of their own among the electorate, it was not going to be Nigel’s day resulting in only a single former player in the name of John Phiri making it into the Zifa board.
On the other hand, Gwindi was hardly visible on the campaign trail.
A contestant in the previous 2010 election, the Harare City chairman was running on a protest platform and did good work of it, stealing 10 votes, which added more suspense in the exercise, and necessitated the run-off, after Dube failed to garner a two-thirds majority in the first round.
Gwindi was the only delegate on the day that doubled as both councillor and candidate, and one of the 10 that switched to Dube in the second round after realising that Dube’s lead of 34 votes was unassailable going into the second round where a simple majority would decide the winner.
The 14 councillors who stuck through thick and thin with Carelse-Juul will forever remain mysterious but we must thank them for contributing to the democratic outcome of the Zifa elections and demonstrating that despite the damaging allegations of vote-buying that had marred the process, nothing can ever stand in the way of a principled stance.
In the end, however, Dube’s total haul of 44 votes, that is to say 76 percent of the ballots cast, showed him to be the most popular candidate by a mile and that the councillors had swallowed hook, line and sinker, his gospel of continuity.
It all comes down with a Castle Lager now, the proud sponsors of our game as the keenly-anticipated season finally gets underway!
Goodwill Zunidza is the Sports Editor of The Sunday Mail. You can interact on his Facebook wall Nunu Palmer or write directly to him on [email protected]