The Sunday Mail
FELTON KAMAMBO clocks 266 days in charge of the Zimbabwe Football Association today but his has been a tumultuous reign, littered with a number of lows that have left some even calling for his resignation, just nine months after taking over from Philip Chiyangwa.
The Sunday Mail Sport Reporter Langton Nyakwenda (LN) sat down with the under fire Kamambo (FK), who insisted that he has not failed yet. He says he needs more time to deliver on his vision.
LN: We meet at a time when things are not looking good at all for Zimbabwean football, how would you briefly describe your reign so far?
FK: It has been a mixed bag. There are instances we have done well and some when we have been found wanting. You may recall that when we got into office, we managed to secure kit sponsorship for all our teams, you can see now that all our teams are well dressed when we play.
We managed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals, even though we only had one game (against Congo Brazzaville) to manage.
For the first time in the history of Zimbabwean football, the Warriors had the best preparations for those finals. We managed to secure a big friendly in Nigeria and also arrived in Egypt 10 days ahead of schedule. Our performance at Afcon was below par, I am not sure whether it was the level of our football or it was those contractual issues that affected us.
LN: After last Sunday’s Mighty Warriors debacle, coupled by the Warriors’ shock 0-1 loss to lowly Somalia in a World Cup qualifier and the Young Warriors’ humiliation in South Africa on Friday night, some are saying your board is the worst ever. Are they correct?
FK: That’s their wishful thinking, everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion but I feel it’s very unfair for people to judge us by that one Somalia loss. We are just over six months into this board and we are left with more than 40 months in office so I believe it’s too early to judge us.
Who knows, maybe we will bounce back and hammer Somalia at home on Tuesday and still qualify for the World Cup group qualifiers.
Some of the problems we have now were inherited from the previous Zifa boards. We also need time to come up with our own systems.
We can’t be judged with one Warriors game, or the Mighty Warriors walkover, that will be unfair. We are just receiving bad publicity but we are not the worst Zifa board. You cannot judge a person who has a four-year term over six months.
There are certain things that we have achieved in six months that other people failed to achieve over four years.
LN: Like what?
FK: Within six months, we have managed to get a kit sponsorship deal for all our teams. We are now wearing Umbro and our teams are smartly dressed.
We have convinced Fifa and they have agreed to help liquidate our legacy debt, yet previous boards failed to deal with this monster. There is money at Fifa for projects that we did not use but if we take that money, it will be swallowed by creditors.
So we made a decision that Fifa use that to clear our debts. Who knows, maybe by end of this year we would have paid the whole $8 million debt. To me that’s an achievement.
At the same time, Fifa have also agreed to sponsor the objectives that we have set. We will soon be building our own headquarters, a hotel, a resort centre, and two offices for the Eastern and Central Regions. We have also moved back to 53 Livingstone Avenue, away from those rented offices where we used to pay about $10 000 per month.
LN: Talk is cheap president, at the last AGM, you told councillors that your board would be launching Youths Leagues by August but we are now in September. You also spoke about distribution of equipment to Premier Soccer League and Lower League teams but nothing has materialised.
FK: I can confirm that we have bought the equipment which is coming for all our Youths Leagues. The guy who is supplying the equipment just needs to pay Zimra and we get our things. Actually, we will be launching the leagues maybe next weekend.
We are starting with the Under-15s for both boys and girls, that’s the group we want to work with. Next year, some will graduate into the Under-17s, when we get to the Under-19s. That will be the group that should represent Zimbabwe at Under-20.
We are aiming to revamp the Warriors. To do that, we have to start from the bottom. We will have 10 teams in each province and each club will have two sets of kits, plus all the necessary equipment.
PSL teams, Division One and Two clubs will also be allocated some equipment. To me that’s a very big achievement.
LN: You only speak of achievements, what can you say has been the disappointment in your reign so far?
FK: It has to be last Sunday’s Mighty Warriors’ issue. That was a low in as far as I am concerned, a country failing to fulfil a home match.
And we have some clubs deciding to take their players who are on national duty and more so, these clubs are from the police force, the correctional services, and the army, but anyway it happens in soccer. We had done everything that we were supposed to do as far as preparations were concerned. After the clubs complained that their players had not been paid the Cosafa allowances, we met them and discussed the matter.
They asked us to pay the players something and we did. We paid them all their allowances for the Zambian away game. We even paid them their winning bonuses in advance and we came up with an agreement that they were going to fulfil the two legs and then we would have an all-stakeholder meeting on September 7.
When they returned from Zambia they went into camp, nothing was wrong. A day before the game, team sheets were submitted and the girls retired to bed but to our surprise, we were told players had been removed from camp midnight.
We tried to engage the players on Sunday morning but they refused, the club owners insisted that we pay the players their Cosafa allowances. Unfortunately, our account had been garnished last Friday, the same day that we also received some funding from Fifa.
Then we engaged Fifa, who advised us to get another team and probably postpone the match to Monday, but that was subject to Zambia also writing to Fifa confirming they were ready to play the postponed match.
LN: You confirm that you received US$100 000 from Fifa last Friday, meaning you have now received a total of $840 000 from the world body since you came into office. However, there are allegations that you have been abusing these funds. How do you respond to that?
FK: That’s wishful thinking. I think you might have seen that recent letter from Fifa (in response to the SRC’s embezzlement allegations).
For your own information, Fifa money will never be abused. If we do a transaction today, we are supposed to inform Fifa, to say we have done this and we have this balance.
The transactions are traced thoroughly and Fifa also sends their auditors as well. Actually, the fact that we received another US$100 000 last Friday shows that Fifa is satisfied with our conduct.
Yes we agree that the famous US$740 000 once went into a private account, that was because we were trying to evade the garnish, but it was never abused. In fact, there is paper trail to show how that money was used and not abused.
The money went out of the Zifa account, it then came back to another Zifa account, not into the same account that it was taken from, again because we feared it would be garnished.
LN: What are some of the major issues that you have done with that money?
FK: That money has some cost centres, so it is supposed to be used like that. There’s one for airfares, there’s one for women football, which is supposed to be used for women.
There’s one for equipment, there’s one for developmental issues, one for referees, which is solely meant for refereeing issues, as well as one for training of coaches.
You don’t just get into the account and do what you want, there’s no luxury of saying I can take it and do A, B, C, D. The money is strictly monitored by Fifa, who also send auditors to trace the transactions.
LN: Critics say your board is wasting energy on endless boardroom wars at the expense of football development and yet when you came into office, you spoke about peace. What changed your stance?
FK: My stance has not changed. I am still saying we need peace but people must not then take advantage of that and behave haywire. Action will be taken against them.
I don’t see any boardroom wars. Vice-president Gift Banda committed an offence when he unilaterally appointed the Warriors technical team in January. We referred his case for disciplinary hearing. They have had more than five sittings and in most cases, he has been requesting for some postponement. So we can’t say he has been prejudiced. That case could have been concluded by now. However, it’s his right to seek for postponement, and he has been granted.
Mr Chamu Chiwanza committed an offence, he was brought before a committee, they had two sittings. On the third sitting he did not appear and that case was concluded. He was even given time to appeal, he never appealed, so that case is already done.
LN: You continue talking about a third force, after the Afcon finals debacle, you talked about this force and now after last Sunday’s Mighty Warriors gaffe, you continue talking about it. How much evidence do you have concerning that?
FK: On the Mighty Warriors, you can tell that they wanted to play. How can you have a football person, an administrator, coming during midnight to take players. There’s someone pushing them, some third force.
LN: Who do you suspect is behind this third force?
FK: As far as I’m concerned, this third force is actually coming from my predecessor (Philip Chiyangwa). For your own information, we have people who have been approached who are willing to give affidavits to that effect.
LN: What could be the motive behind this third force?
FK: I wouldn’t know. When I came into power, I also engaged people and said let bygones be bygones. I have other cases which I feel I could have taken to court, you know those rape accusations, but I said there’s no need for that, all I wanted was to lead football.
Here I am, let’s forget about everything. But unfortunately, some want to take advantage. But I am still preaching peace.
LN: The latest letter from Cosafa suggested that Fifa recognises Philip Chiyangwa as the regional leader and even tasked him with finding a solution to the problems bedevilling Zimbabwean football. Are you willing to dialogue with Chiyangwa?
FK: Which letter are you talking about? There’s nothing like that. That’s a manufactured letter to suit their agenda, there’s nothing like that.
Fifa never wrote anything to that effect.
lf Fifa had written that letter, they were supposed to copy us. Even up to now, we have actually asked Cosafa to favour us with the copy of the letter. We have not been given the copy. It’s a fake letter. Fifa is very professional, if you are complaining about me, they will also copy me in their response.
LN: Is there any bad blood between you and the Cosafa secretariat?
FK: No there’s no bad blood, I am sure in normal circumstances I would say they are taking instructions from the president (Chiyangwa) because we were suspended from Cosafa for the wrongs that were done by the then Zifa president, who was also the Cosafa president.
We have also realised that neither the Cosafa executive committee nor its membership, that is the FAs, were consulted about the Zimbabwean case.
It was a unilateral decision by the same person that we were talking about. Zimbabwe did nothing wrong because a country can only get hosting rights after presenting Cosafa with a guarantee from Government, which was never done.
We wonder why Cosafa would say Zimbabwe are the hosts when there was no guarantee from Government. Our case is still ongoing and we are hopeful we will win that case.
LN: If there was a chance to meet PC (Chiyangwa) today, would you be willing to iron out your differences?
FK: Yes, but on our own terms, that the charges against Zimbabwe are dropped. Those are the sticking conditions. Cosafa erred to award Zimbabwe when there was no Government guarantee.
LN: There’s talk that acting vice-president Philemon Machana is the man running the show at Zifa and that you are just a figure head. How do you respond to that?
FK: Anyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. You also hear the same people saying Kamambo has failed, he did this, or has done that. Why would they blame me when I am not in charge?
I don’t know why they think my vice-president is in charge. I am the main man in charge of football in Zimbabwe.