Warriors play for cars and cellphones, Mighty Warriors play for dresses?
The new Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) President, Philip Chiyangwa has so far managed to tread with caution in his operations and avoided obvious administration blunders his critics expected.
However, he has also starved those who praised and worshipped him as the country’s football savior of tangible successes to cement their ‘Doc Phil’ gospel teachings. But as promised during his campaign, he managed to bring Wicknell Chivayo who is believed to be one of his rich friends to sponsor football.
Chivhayo has committed to sponsor the game “for the duration of Chiyangwa’s term.”
Since his involvement, he has pampered the national men’s football team with gifts and winning bonuses. He bought a new car for the Warriors coach, Kalisto Pasuwa and Mighty Warriors coach, Shadreck Mlaudzi.
It is true, the Warriors have been a motivated side humiliating Swaziland 4-0 during the Africa Cup of Nations qualifier at the National Sports Stadium. Chiyangwa has even boasted to his credit, “…when last did you witness 4-0 in NSS…”
Women’s victories insignificant?
Well, there have been bigger achievements by national football teams before; unless the women’s team does not count as one. When last has Zimbabwe witnessed a national team qualifying for a major sporting event like the Olympic Games?
In 1980, the women’s national hockey team won the first and only gold medal for the country by a sports team at the Moscow Olympics.
Similarly, the Mighty Warriors have been doing well since last year and yet all they have to date are promises to celebrate their victories from ZIFA. Chiyangwa recently awarded members of the Mighty Warriors team with US$50 for each player, as a follow up on his promise to buy them dresses as a ‘token of appreciation’ for their achievements.
The team made history last year, by qualifying for the Olympic Games to be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August and now they have qualified for the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, after beating Zambia home and away. Their victory this last Sunday, led them to victory on a 4-2 aggregate.
For all these noble achievements, the president of the country’s football association and acclaimed business tycoon found dresses to be the best reward for the team.
Of course, what else could they be playing for? Surely they also need some pots and pans as well for their kitchens, so that after looking beautiful in the dresses for the men in their lives; they cook for them.
How sexist is that?
Mighty Warriors captain Felistas Muzongondi refused to read much into the gesture, accepting it as it was put across, thus “a token of appreciation” but hopes the team will be able to lure a sponsor of its own.
“I understand Chivayo is Warriors’ sponsor and we respect that, it is my hope that we will be able to show the nation that women can also play football and lure sponsors to support our game,” she said.
“It is true when everyone is called to the national team they expect to be paid and take care of their families because most of us are looked up to. We have not had players playing abroad in our team and having to go and play at the Olympics would mean a lot for us as it is a stage where such opportunities present themselves.”
Are Mighty Warriors, just a consolation prize?
The gendered nature of support in sport, goes beyond even to our musicians. Prominent local men’s football teams as well as the Warriors have had songs composed for them, but radio presenters always have to find an alternative victory song every time the Mighty Warriors win. Sometimes a song composed for the Warriors is played as a dedication to the women’s team.
In most cases, local football fans opt to support the Mighty Warriors only after the Warriors have lost. This appears as if the Mighty Warriors are a consolation if and when the Warriors disappoint the nation.
ZIFA currently appears like an association in waiting to celebrate the Mighty Warriors’ achievements when and if the hopes of a Warriors’ qualification to the Africa Cup of Nations fail. Of course, there is great potential for the Warriors’ to qualify, and once that happens; Mighty Warriors would disappear into the oblivion.
Main image by Grace Chirumanzu