Home » Sports » It’s Not Too Late to Save Our Football [editorial]

WHEN Philip Lahm became the first German captain, in 24 years, to lift the Fifa World Cup at the Maracana, it marked the triumph of more than a dozen years of planning and execution, by a nation that dared to conquer the world once again.

At the turn of the millennium, German football was in bad shape — the national team had been humiliated at the ’98 World Cup, in the quarter-finals, by Croatia, a group stage exit followed at Euro 2000 and although they qualified for the final of the 2002 World Cup it did little to mask the reality that the foundation was shaking.

That soon proved true, two years later, at Euro 2004 as Germany crashed out in the group stages. The Germans had to act. And act they did with the German Football Federation, DFB, sending scouts all over the world to learn the best practices of identifying and nurturing fresh football talent with the hugely successful Ajax Amsterdam project in Holland being used as a benchmark.

The DFB introduced a new system in 2003 that made it mandatory for all professional clubs in the country to create and run youth football academies with coaches and funds being supplied by the association for this ambitious project. The DFB also dangled a carrot, to the clubs, with those that fast-tracked a certain number of young players, who had German citizenship, being rewarded handsomely and this is the project that gave birth to the stars of Brazil — Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller, Tony Kroos, Matts Hummels and Mesut Ozil. The results have been there for everyone to see — Germany finished third at the 2006 World Cup, runners-up at Euro 2008, third at the 2010 World Cup, third at Euro 2012 and World Cup winners in Brazil.

One of the key men, who helped transform German football, was Matthias Sammer, a former respected professional whose appointment as technical director of the DFB was a major turning point and he has continued to spread the gospel, working today as the sporting director of Bayern Munich, who provided the bulk of the players who won the World Cup.

In sharp contrast, Zifa had a chance to appoint a competent technical director, recently, who could help the association in its development initiatives but, surprisingly, our football leaders settled on Maxwell Takaendesa Jongwe.

But, then, Jongwe’s questionable appointment, is just one of the many things that our football leaders have been doing wrong as they take our national game backwards while the whole world appears to be marching forward. Since Cuthbert Dube took over as Zifa president in 2010, we have seen the value of our football take a huge battering and nothing has been invested in the junior structures while the leadership has spent more time, flying around the world dining and wining with Fifa leaders, than attending to pertinent matters back home to try and revive the game.

We have seen the emergence of a leadership that cares very little, for our football, with Dube so divorced from what is happening here that he hasn’t even cared to go to either Rufaro or Barbourfields to watch the domestic matches or to the National Sports Stadium when the Warriors are in action.

Dube and his globe-trotting entourage have been enjoying themselves in Brazil, watching the World Cup final, while back home the game continues to limp from one crisis to another, a referee was attacked by players in a Cup final for women and the referee who handled the Harare Derby ran for dear life under a shower of missiles at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

This weekend teams like Tanzania and Mozambique will be playing in the second round of the preliminary round of the qualifiers for a place at the 2015 Nations Cup finals but the Warriors, as has now become the norm, will be inactive because they were knocked out in the first round.

But our leaders don’t seem to care and that is why those who are calling for the Government to step in and kick out this Zifa leadership, taking a leaf from the Nigerians who have reacted to what they deem to be failure at the World Cup in Brazil by dissolving the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation, without worrying about what Fifa will do in reaction, should be heeded.

It’s also very likely that the Cameroon Football Federation will also be dissolved, soon, after the Indomitable Lions’ failure in Brazil and President Paul Biya has already made it clear that he owes it to his people to act rather than worry about what Fifa will do in retaliation.

We can’t continue to act as if everything is normal in our football and we need to be brave and take the necessary measures and even if we are suspended by Fifa, what difference does it make when the Warriors are going to spend the next two years in international football isolation and when the Young Warriors are not competing in the battles for a place at the 2015 African Youth Championships?

It’s time to act now to save our football because, under this leadership, we are doomed.

Source : The Herald