Former Zimbabwe captain Benjani Mwaruwari has expressed his disappointment at the way local football is being run and intends to challenge the current Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa at next year’s elections.
In a thinly veiled attack on Chiyangwa, the 38-year-old former Manchester City forward said the current state of local football had proved beyond reasonable doubt that politicians have nothing to offer to the game and it was high time former players took charge.
Mwaruwari’s comments came after he held meetings with local football stakeholders and fellow former players during his visit to the country for the burial of former Warriors midfielder Edzai Kasinauyo.
“Yes, I’m gearing up for another challenge and I fear no one. Politics has no place in football and this time I will come better prepared and I can confirm I will be aiming higher by running for the Zifa presidency,” Mwaruwari told Sports World in an exclusive interview from his South African base on Friday.
Mwaruwari, who rose from humble beginnings when he played for Lulu Rovers to become one of Zimbabwe’s most decorated professional footballers, said although he was not at liberty to disclose his plans he was hoping to unlock revenue streams that could help Zimbabwe football.
“I’m not afraid of anyone, I made myself and I have been involved in football not by elections but through hard work and love for the game. At the moment I’m not at liberty to disclose my plans. Remember I’m dealing with politicians lest my plans, get hijacked but I’m in for a turnaround of things and I have sponsors in the wings.”
“Let’s wait for the next elections. I will be more than ready to face whoever thinks can be man enough. I have reached the age and stage where our game must belong to us players not politicians,” he said.
Mwaruwari said Chiyangwa was only interested in furthering his own career by assuming positions at regional and continental bodies like Cosafa and CAF at the expense of the local game which remains crippled by a debt of over $7 million.
“Let them concentrate in their many positions and I will concentrate on making Zimbabwe football better. I won’t use football to campaign for personal positions but to better our football starting from grassroots,” he said.
“I want to put it on record that I’m disappointed with the way our football is being run. The people who are in power are not serious about developing the sport, instead they only care about themselves. It doesn’t make any sense to have 100 titles in African football yet your own backyard is in shambles.
This is not the first time that Mwaruwari has expressed his interest in contesting for the biggest job in Zimbabwean football.
Two years ago, the Undertaker, as Mwaruwari is affectionately known, launched his bid for the top Zifa post, only to discover that he was not eligible to contest for the Zifa presidency, which requires one to be at least 40 years old.
Mwaruwari had emerged a popular choice with the fans, some of whom questioned the age limitation especially considering that there are no such demands for the Fifa presidency.
But while Mwaruwari was willing to consider lower posts, particularly the vice presidency, again he was not eligible since one has to have at least five years administrative experience within Zifa structures.
After the disappointment Mwaruwari refused to endorse any of the candidates who were in the running for the Zifa presidency and he does not regret his decision.
Mwaruwari said as former players they were disappointed by the way the Zifa leadership elbowed out their colleague Kasinauyo, the former Zifa board member development.
Kasinauyo was expelled by the country’s football body a year after the elections on allegations of plotting to fix an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier between Zimbabwe and Swaziland although the charges were later dropped.
“I have been really disappointed by the current Zifa leadership’s lack of respect for former players and I was saddened by how they treated Edzai until his death. There is a lot of politicking and victimisation in our football at the moment and puppets being used to fight battles and I’m sure this contributed to Edzai’s death.
“I feel very sorry for individuals used to victimise former footballers, it’s sad but that’s what you get when you deal with politicians in football,” he said.
Until his return to South Africa last Thursday, Benjani had been on a charm offensive, organising a visit by former players to Warriors great George Shaya at his home in Glen Norah, Harare where they donated groceries and cash.
Mwaruwari also paid a visit to the Yadah Hotel Complex in Harare to thank Prophet Walter Magaya for hosting the Warriors ahead of their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Liberia.