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Zimbabwe: Asiagate Scandal Continues to Haunt Football Hopes

This past weekend 13-14 October 2012, had various countries across Africa playing for qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 to be held in South Africa.

Zimbabwe Shirt Crest courtesy of ZIFA – www.wikipedia.com

But while focus was on who was going to qualify and who would miss the continental challenge, Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) was dealing with the match-fixing scandal that popularly has come to be known as Asiagate.

Following revelations by Singaporean Wilson Raj Perumal earlier this year, top football officials have been suspended and even the ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaindze was kidnapped for making investigations of the match-fixing claims.However various national football fans have been talking about it.

FutbolNews9101 noted that the number of players suspended:

National team players alleged to have taken bribes to throw matches played in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Eighty Zimbabwean footballers have been suspended because of alleged involvement in Asian betting syndicates linked to match-fixing.

The country's sports minister said football was “riddled with corruption”, and called for politics to be rooted out of the sport.The players, including leading members of the national team, are alleged to have taken bribes to throw friendly matches between 2007 and 2009.The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has set up an independent ethics committee to investigate the alleged fixing, which it believes took place when the national team played in Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Stephen Brewer on the blog The Non-partisan Football Fans also shared some concerns about football in a post titled – Global Corruption in Football, It was never a Beautiful Game Part I:

Although this happened five years ago and surfaced a massive three years later, the first proper action was only taken by the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) in February 2012 when they temporarily banned around 90 people including coaches. The ZIFA chief executive who was fired ‘Henrieta Rushwaya’ was said to have masterminded the scam, she has been arrested and faces jail time if convicted. The ones who truly suffer from this are the fans, a lot of whom feel that this scandal is surely going to ruin their chances of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations.

Though a majority have the right attitude, with one fan Lindiwe Malaba saying, “They are greedy. We will not miss them at all. They have brought shame to this country.” A sentiment also felt by retired Zimbabwe forward Alois Bunjira, who feels the people involved deserve their fate for putting the country to shame. However after reading several accounts I don’t feel this entirely accurate, whilst I agree with the fans and Bunjira 99%, I feel sorry for the teams goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro who is known to have cried when he was told to allow goals to fly past him. This strikes me as a player with little to no choice and I genuinely feel remorse for him.

Reflections of an African Youth wrote a passionate appeal to the national coach Rahman Gumbo and the football team known as the Warriors:

Dear Rahman.

I know it is not easy carrying the hopes of an entire nation, less so when that nation is Zimbabwe, whose citizens are always complaining about one thing or the other.

Yesterday is a day best forgotten for you and millions of Zimbabweans. It was a terrible day, a disastrous end to a fairy tale that lasted one game.

When you got the position of head coach I, and other like minded Zimbabweans, reserved our comments. I would not be lying if I say I hoped you well.

It is a difficult job, a difficult team, with difficult fans in a difficult country but when you got the job everyone agreed it would not be too difficult to succeed. Against a background of match-fixing, losing to Cape Verde and failing to qualify for the AFCON since 2006 all you needed to do was win a few matches.

He expresses his disappointment with national team officials and nation's state of affairs and further says,

We were tired of Prime Minister Tsvangira’s wife and the women in his life. We were equally tired of the speculation over elections which has gone on for over two years now.

And Cde Rahman, you gave me a chance to write a letter, something I have not done in a very long while. There is something positive even in the bad as the Shona say, “Kushata kwezvimwe kunaka kwezvimwe” isn’t it?

Lastly I wish you every success in your next adventures, wherein you will be carrying the hopes of lots of people again. Must be a heavy burden that, carrying an entire people’s hopes, especially a capricious people like Zimbabweans.

I won’t be part of those people or adventures though Cde Gumbo, my time with the Warriors is up.

In the hope that this letter finds you well in these difficult times- ‘mourning times’ as Sharuko would have us believe.

I look forward to receiving your reply comrade.

Warmest Regards

The African Youth ( A very disappointed former fan of the Warriors)

Finally Stanford Chiwanga through his blog Flair Play offers a nice conclusion by saying:

There is no denying that football in Zimbabwe has not been tapped, its full potential has been retarded by lack of corporate support. This is the time for ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube and his board to impress the business community that has shunned football because of perceived corruption and maladministration.

The Ndumiso Gumede led Asiagate investigating team has done well and the prayer of the day is that its findings will not be thrown into the dustbin with just a few scapegoats punished while the major players walk away with the proverbial cigar in their mouths.

The Asiagate scandal was a wake up call, a reminder and an obvious example that our football is in need of drastic changes now not tomorrow. This opportunity must not be lost otherwise the vultures will circle again when the dust has settled.

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