By Andrew Warshaw
December 19 – Philip Chiyangwa, one of the most charismatic figures in African football and a key ally of Gianni Infantino, has been sensationally ousted as president of the Zimbabwean FA (Zifa) following elections held on Tuesday.
Chiyangwa, who is head of the 14-strong Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa), was upset by Elton Kamambo, very much the underdog and ironically the man he tried to ban from contesting the elections on the grounds that he was serving a suspension – an allegation dismissed by Fifa, who ordered that the former Zifa board member be allowed to contest.
Constitutionally, the winner was supposed to garner at least two thirds of the vote but after amassing 35 to Chiyangwa’s 24, the latter withdrew his candidature just before a re-run was about to be conducted.
FIFA reportedly sent three observers to check that the electoral process was conducted in a transparent manner after Kamambo had made a passionate appeal to postpone the date to January in his bid to unseat Chiyangwa. In the end he managed it anyway and immediately promised to deliver on his pre-election promises.
“The honeymoon is over, the election period is over now and we need to deliver what we were promising during our campaigns,” Kamambo said. “I am challenging myself and the entire team which has been elected into office to put the foot on the pedal. I am glad I have worked with some of the members elected into the board in the past. That will work for the best of our football.”
Kamambo and his newly-elected board are inheriting an association ridden with debt and internal strife. He insisted, however, that through good governance, ZIFA will make big strides.
“Of course, we will be focusing more on developing the game but at the same time we know the fruits which corporate governance can bring,” he said.
Whether Chiyangwa, who had backed Infantino for Fifa president, can hang on to the COSAFA leadership is unclear. His five-year term still technically has three years to run and there are a number of precedents in terms of COSAFA executives staying on despite losing their national positions.
Zimbabwean media pointed out that Botswana’s David Fani, Frans Mbidi of Namibia and Suketu Patel of Seychelles all served COSAFA while they were not leaders of their FA’s.
Nevertheless being removed as Zifa boss will be huge blow for the ambitious Chiyangwa‚ who used to be a boxing promoter before he turned his attention to football and had set his sights on gaining an influential role within the Confederation of African Football.
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