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KICK OFF: MINISTER, FAZ RECONCILE BUT…

LAST week sports minister Emmanuel Mulenga announced that he had reconciled with FAZ and a joint statement was issued to that effect.

This announcement came as good news.
There is no doubt that the bad blood between the minister and Football House had injured football in the country.

But it’s also important for Zambians to know – and I am not being a sadist here – that the so-called problems were created by the minister himself when his office refused to fund the Under-23 foreign camping for the Olympic qualifiers on grounds that FAZ was an international organisation operating in Zambia.

This claim was baseless because it had no legs to stand. This resulted in the star-studded Zambia performing very poorly at the tournament in Egypt and consequently missing out on the Olympics next year. Who has suffered from that? You and me dear reader, and especially the young players who could have clinched different deals had they qualified to the Olympics.

Then came the rejection of the national team coach Vaselin ‘Micho’
Jelusic’s appointment.

Then came snubbing legally organised FAZ gatherings. A case in point; the February 1 FAZ extraordinary AGM.

Snubbing the arrival of the U-23 from a triumphant trip to Congo-Brazzaville, snubbing the triumphant U-17 from Malawi and so on.

Simply put, football emerged the biggest casualty from the minister’s dislike of FAZ president Andrew Kamanga and company, for whatever reasons.

But there were other casualties like general secretary Adrian Kashala and his police career.
All the politics playing out where one group campaigns under the chorus, “ifwe twaba no buteko.”

Look at the Micho situation. Ever since he was engaged in March, the new Chipolopolo coach has only been getting part payment of his salary.

The contract stipulates that the Serb would be getting US$25,000 collectively, with FAZ contributing US$15,000 and the government contributing US$10,000. But to date, only FAZ has been paying – so I am told – while efforts to get the minister to commit government’s position has not materialised.

This means that the government now owes Sven Vandenbroke, Wedson Nyirenda in arrears and now Micho. All this was avoidable.

Another pending issue has been the delayed approval by the ministry on the proposal by FAZ to upgrade stadia in selected provincial centres under the FIFA development projects.

If this doesn’t take off, FAZ will miss out on the next FIFA funding.
So, coming back to the ‘reconciliation’, I will only believe it if as a matter of urgency, the minister announces that the government has formalised Micho’s contract.

The ministry has to approve the stadia rehabilitation projects.

The minister has to stop people campaigning to go to Football House in the name of ‘Boma’.
Honourable Mulenga has to be seen to distance his office away from football politics. He can offer advice where possible but not to be seen to be partisan.

That’s why on my part there is a big but over this reconciliation until some of these outstanding matters of national interest are quickly resolved.

That the problems between the two offices was a result of miscommunication is incorrect because everything is there in black and white.

Having said that, and not to take anything away from you, honourable minister, that was a step in the right direction. For that, kudos to you! But….

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