The curtain comes down on Afcon 2023 and everyone agrees that Ivory Coast pulled off a successful tournament from one that had aroused trepidation from observers before it began.
Although it is too much to expect perfect organisation, the organisers surely get a favourable end of term report for coming up with such a successful tournament and for that matter hosted at six excellent separate venues spread all over the west African country.
On the football front new stars shone, the established powerhouses learned once again to beware of the minnows, refereeing standards were just too good, while South Africa’s PSL Boys made the whole world sit up and take notice.
However, football analyst Alvin Ndunduma who also played for Blackpool, Motor Action, Lengthens and Monotomotapa thinks Zimbabwe could have also done well had they been there.
“We are not all that behind. With the right choice of coach and the right environment for the players, we could have reached at least the quarter finals,” believes Ndunduma although there is debate on how far the Warriors could have gone.
The talking point, though, remains the sound organisation of the 24-team competition.
Even Europe and the rest of the world are looking with admiration at the Ivorian Afcon hosting experience and with the passage of time could feel threatened with Africa’s claims to host another FIFA World Cup due to the stadia factor.
We cannot ignore the connection between the Ivorian Afcon hosting success and the involvement of their government and in particular the president Alassane Ouattara who was influential in the construction of the new stadiums.
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In fact, the final between the Ivorian Elephants and the Super Eagles of Nigeria at 10pm is being hosted at the Stade Olympique Alassane Ouattara Stadium, named in the president’s honour.
Zimbabwe can do the same only if we remove the fear factor that the state president cannot be directly approached by football or any other national institution that requires his assistance.
Sometimes, observations can be wrong but the fact that sports minister Kirsty Coventry has made promises over and over again with nothing coming out of it, clearly shows that she has no influence or power over what needs to be done at the National Sports Stadium.
The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) too has proved to be of no use on this stadia issue and the only solution lies with the highest office in the land - that is that of the state president.
The stadium situation cannot be allowed to go on any longer and Zifa should abandon the fear factor and seek an audience with President Emmerson Mnangagwa to see how best the situation can be addressed.
If we recall, Mnangagwa has repeatedly called himself a listening president and he cannot listen to those who have not spoken to him and football should speak to him regarding its present national stadium crisis.
If Marvelous Nakamba can come all the way from England to meet the state president, why can’t those who run the most followed sport in the country seek the same honour.
The state president needs to be told what playing in foreign lands means for the Warriors and other football teams representing the nation and also for the name Zimbabwe as a country.
The state’s coffers cannot be empty to the extent that the treasury cannot afford as little as $600 000 to see to it that bucket seats are installed at the NSS and that a few other tune ups are made as required by Caf.
This is surely the time for football to make a bold decision instead of waiting forever for the never-ending promises of the minister and the SRC.
There is nothing wrong in trying and now is the time for football to seek the state president’s intervention into the stadium dilemma.
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