The Sunday Mail
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo — buoyed by the goodwill his association is enjoying from FIFA — took his grassroots development crusade to Mudzi last Friday, where he donated an assortment of equipment for use by the budding talent in the area.
Kamambo pledged to spread the game across the country when he assumed office.
Football development was among one of his major targets, but this could only be done after clearing a $7 million debt that plagued the association.
With 90 percent of ZIFA’s legacy debt now cleared after FIFA availed funding for the exercise, the association, which had been in bad books with most of its creditors, have been heaving a sigh of relief.
Kamambo visited Kotwa Academy on Friday, where he had a pleasant surprise for young players at the centre of excellence and donated training equipment, two sets of uniforms, soccer balls and beds for rooms at the institution.
He also paid two years’ rentals for the academy.
“I have always said that we want to see football being played beyond just the major cities because the game is for everyone in the country, and this is just but part of a series of interventions which we will be making to boost grassroots development around the country,” Kamambo said.
“It is my wish to see all the talented young players being afforded a chance to reach their potential and fulfil their dreams.
“If one carefully looks at the action plan that I outlined, one can see that we are well on course.
“Of course, it has not been all plain-sailing, with some forces dragging us to courts or making frivolous attempts to derail us and create problems all in the hope of inviting FIFA to send a normalisation committee.
“But I have said we should let football do the talking and avoid a lot of the unnecessary off-field battles.
“That is why I feel that after clearing the debt, we can now put more emphasis and attention to delivering on the action plan without worrying about unexpected visits from the Deputy Sheriff.”
Although coronavirus has affected some of their plans, ZIFA is satisfied with the progress they had made, which includes re-engagement with stakeholders, creditors, undertaking austerity measures and re-introducing junior football.
Kamambo said they “welcome the announcement by FIFA that they would be availing more money to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19”.
On Thursday, FIFA revealed that they would release a US$1,5 million stimulus package for each of their member associations. Local clubs, choked by a tough operating environment that was only worsened by the lockdown necessitated by the need to curb the spread of the coronavirus, had been crying out for help from ZIFA.
According to FIFA, US$500 000 from the package is to be set aside for the women’s game, which had literally suffocated in Zimbabwe.
The world soccer governing body’s package is also set to help ease tensions between ZIFA and the Premiership clubs who had not been amused by the association’s seeming indifference to their plight.
Many clubs have been battling to pacify their staff amid reports of unrest by players who have gone for months without being paid.
The players normally augment their salaries with winning bonuses, but with the start of the 2020 season delayed since March owing to the national lockdown, many have struggled to cope.
Kamambo, however, said the intervention by FIFA would be timely in providing the clubs with the stimulus they badly needed and also aid in their preparations for the envisaged return to action in August or September.
Football and other contact disciplines remain suspended locally as Government and health authorities continue with the phased re-opening.
In announcing their package, FIFA also opened the window for associations to access loans from the international federation. ZIFA will next month receive their first tranche of the US$1,5 million relief fund.
Of the allocation, US$1 million will be for the men’s game, including clubs and players.
These funds are part of the US$1,5 billion global relief fund which was approved by the FIFA Council during their virtual meeting.
It is different from the Forward Funds for which ZIFA had already received US$500 000.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) had also availed US$200 000 to ZIFA. But it is the outcome the FIFA Council meeting last Thursday which is set to bring the much-sought relief to the clubs and their players.
Over and above the US$1,5 million grant, member associations will be able to apply for interest-free loans, amounting to up to 35 percent of their audited annual revenues.
And, in the spirit of solidarity, a minimum loan of US$500 000, and a maximum of US$5 million, will be available.
In order to ensure effective oversight of the plan, there will be strict controls of the funds, audit requirements as well as clear loan repayment conditions.
A FIFA Covid-19 relief plan steering committee will also be established to supervise the administration of the scheme. The committee will be led by FIFA’s governance committee deputy chairperson, Olli Rehn.
In a circular to member associations, FIFA said the relief plan had been established in order to alleviate the financial distress caused by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The FIFA Council convened by video-conference today (Thursday) and made important decisions for the future of football, chief of which was the selection of Australia and New Zealand as hosts of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2030.
“The Council approved several measures with a view to responding to Covid-19 and helping football around the world in the face of the pandemic and its aftermath, namely: the Council unanimously approved the FIFA Covid-19 Relief Plan, which was designed by the FIFA administration in close cooperation with representatives of the confederations. Across its three stages, this global support plan will make available up to US$1,5 billion to assist the football community,’’ FIFA said in a statement.