Petros Kausiyo

Deputy Sports Editor
ZIFA and the Spanish La Liga have
upped the game in their growing
relationship, with the two bodies on
Thursday night sealing a landmark deal
set to transform the fortunes of
talented Zimbabwean footballers and
afford them direct access to the
professional European game. It’s also a
major vote of confidence in ZIFA
president Philip Chiyangwa’s leadership
ahead of his address to the
association’s annual general meeting
(AGM) in Harare today which has been
preceded by a wave of negativity from
some power-hungry hawks who want
to take over the leadership of domestic
football.

Nine months after they first engaged in
talks, ZIFA and the Spanish top-flight
league cemented their commitment to
work together with a Memorandum of
Agreement that is pregnant with
massive prospects for the domestic
game, being signed by the two parties.
Chiyangwa flew into Johannesburg on
Thursday to seal the deal with La Liga
director for Africa Antonino Barradas.

He was in the company of ZIFA board
member finance Philip Machana while
Barradas, who has set up base in South
Africa since La Liga opened their Africa
offices there, was flanked by officials
from his league who included Enrique
Suay.
Crucially for Zimbabwean football, the
MOU which Chiyangwa and Barradas
signed has a broader outlook which
encompasses the schools and clubs and
underlines the ZIFA president’s
commitment to development of the
game in this country as enunciated in
the Harare property mogul’s manifesto
when he was elected into office two
years ago.

Despite some of his detractors seeking
to disrupt focus at the association from
key football matters and diverting them
to some election madness ahead of
today’s ZIFA AGM, Chiyangwa and his
board have remained steadfast that
they would continue to explore deals
that will benefit Zimbabwe’s flagship
sport.

The ZIFA assembly will converge in
Harare for their annual meeting today.
And the ZIFA councillors, Zimbabwean
football’s top policy making members,
have to their credit resisted attempts to
be drawn into meaningless fights that
only serve to damage the image of the
country’s flagship sport that has been
crying out for increased corporate
sector partnerships.

FIFA last night also indicated that they
had received correspondence from ZIFA
over the elections road map issue but
the world soccer governing body could
not discuss much on it except to
confirm that they are now seized with
the matter.

“We can inform you that FIFA has
recently received a correspondence
from ZIFA on this matter, which we are
currently studying. We have no further
comment to make at this stage,” said a
FIFA spokesman.

But on Thursday night, ZIFA business
took another positive turn with the
association’s boss and the local soccer
mother body’s finance guru entering
into a massive game-changing deal for
Zimbabwean football with La Liga. Part
of the MOU signed by Chiyangwa and
Barradas reads:
“. . .Whereas both parties are keen on
having a mutual relationship to aid the
development of football in Zimbabwe
through the L Liga Passtheball Project,
the signing parties herewith agree on
the following:

Training of the trainer projects
programmes through La Liga
certified and qualified trainers/
coaches targeting mainly grassroots
coaches in schools, colleges and
communities.

Donation of La Liga Passtheball
balls to Zimbabwe
Organising coaching clinics and
training camps both in Zimbabwe
and Spain
Providing exposure to talented
Zimbabwean footballers in La Liga
Promote enthusiasm in football as
well as sports tourism through
periodic bringing into Zimbabwe of
La Liga ambassadors/ legends
Organise football tours for
Zimbabwean teams to Spain as well
as La Liga teams to Zimbabwe
Any other football development
initiatives that can be agreed from
time to time”.

In the MOU, ZIFA and La Liga also
agreed to an initial three-year deal that
will also encompass government in the
programme.

“The programme shall initially be
implemented in three phases in not
more than three-year cycle and shall
incorporate key stakeholders which
shall include but not limited to the
government of Zimbabwe and its
relevant Ministries, schools, colleges,
media partners, relevant ZIFA affiliates
as well as corporate partners/ donors,
who operate in the communities in
Zimbabwe.

“This MOU shall be developed into a
fully-fledged agreement once time-
lines, budgets as well as stakeholder
incorporation have been concluded,”
reads the document.
The smooth
partnership between ZIFA and La Liga
has already seen the Europeans
donating 1 000 balls to the association,
a gesture that was made when
Barradas made his maiden visit to
Chiyangwa in April.

La Liga official Suay also spoke
glowingly about the abundance of
talent in Africa, which he believes with
the right nurturing, could become mega
stars in global football.

Suay told Chiyangwa and Machana that
the project would help young
Zimbabwean players to have direct
access to the professional game in
Spain and other European countries.

“The biggest thing in Africa is that the
skill is there, the skill of the people or
the skills of the children but they lack
the training and it needs to start at a
young age. “They also lack access to
the professional leagues. If they train
hard and train correctly and have
access to the professional leagues that’s
it. . .because they have no access and
no growth potential.

“If you play in the Spanish leagues and
if you play in the major leagues of big
money, so this is a legacy project that
starts with donating a ball and training
the trainers,” Suay said.
Suay also underscored the significance
of having talented payers being
exposed to the right technical and
tactical training from a tender age,
which he said would bode well for the
competitiveness of the national team.

The Spanish official told Chiyangwa and
Machana of the need for ZIFA and the
government to lobby for more
corporate support for the initiative.
“You need to lobby the corporations
and the mines to support this project.

Many of the CSO projects to date have
no impact but this is a project that will
have massive impact because with the
funding, the kids will have right
training, the national teams will
become competitive, the national pride
in terms of soccer goes and everyone
will be happy.

“Politically, it is a fantastic move for
any political currency for the people,
it’s an incredible that can give them the
ability to achieve their dreams,” Suay
said.

Barradas had in his initial engagement
with Chiyangwa revealed that his
superiors at La Liga mandated him to
explore possibilities for football
exchange programmes between
Zimbabwe and Spain, engineer
grassroots development, foster training
of trainers, raise development projects
and to support with football
equipment.

The ZIFA, La Liga deal also dovetails
into the thrust that new Minister of
Sport, Arts Recreation Kazembe
Kazembe has been placing emphasis on
– that of channelling more government
resources into establishing community
sports clubs.

Kazembe and his permanent secretary
Prince Mupazviriwo have already
started a programme to identify sports
clubs and faculties that have been left
unused in such areas like Bindura,
Mhangura, Kadoma and Harare with a
view to reviving them and turn them
into multi-purpose community clubs.

The Minister is aware that ZIFA will be
one of the major drivers of that
audacious project to the councillors
who will meet in Harare today leading
the implementation in their various
constituencies.

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