Outspoken and flamboyant Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) president Philip Chiyangwa has warned exiled Pastor Evan Mawarire to stay out of football or risk facing the wrath of the law.
In an interview with a local radio station Chiyangwa said people like Mawarire had no place in football and should never try to solicit fans into politicizing football matches.
His ill rant came after a section of fans at the Barbourfields Stadium, where Highlanders was playing local premier league rivals Dynamos, were seen carrying placards which read “#thisflag, #tajamuka #hatichatya”.
These statements have been used lately by protesters who are calling for the removal of the Zanu Pf led government from power due to poor service delivery and misrule.
Chiyangwa said, “I have to sort out the issue of politics in football which is being perpetuated by people like the failed Pastor Mawarire. Let me warn him that there is no place for his failed smear campaign and if he continues to be a nuisance, the courts are always open, we will drag him there,” said the fuming Chiyangwa.
“If he thinks what he did to cricket will work in football he should wake up from that deep sleep, this is football we do not tolerate such nonsense. Him and his sponsors should know that our football is on a thriving path and we do not want any interference from outsiders,” the eccentric ZIFA boss added.
Just over a month ago, the #thisflag campaign took one of its protests to a cricket match where Zimbabwe was playing visiting New Zealand at Queens Sports club in Bulawayo.
The now infamous Pastor Mawarire had encouraged citizens to sing the national anthem at the beginning of the 36th over as a sign of showing displeasure at the government’s 36 years of misrule.
The campaign was partially successful although police moved in to silence the crowd.
The football governing body FIFA, in Article 17 of its statutes, forbids political interference in footballing matters or the local football governing body will face suspension or expulsion.
Meanwhile, the ZIFA boss has lashed out at people who criticize the Association but do not bring any financial input.
He said “people without money should not have a say in the running of local football. If you are not putting money or contributing financially for the purpose of ensuring that Zimbabwean football is well managed, shut up,” Chiyangwa warned chillingly.
His comments come in the wake of criticism over the national team’s chaotic preparations and travel arrangements for last weekend’s match away to Guinea.
Chiyangwa whose executive was found wanting in their preparations for the match needed help from the government and mobile communications company Netone to charter a plane to Guinea.
The Zifa president said his association should be immune to criticism because “nobody” is contributing money towards the running of football in the country.
“Only if you contribute, I have asked people in the nation to contribute a dollar. No one, nothing, they leave it all to me and my executive.
He went to brag that no country in Africa has achieved what Zimbabwe has achieved this year alone
“We achieved a triple major, qualifying for Brazil Olympics, Afcon for men and Afcon for women, and no one on our continent has achieved that.
“No one talks about that but they dwell on our flaws, that is totally unacceptable,” said the self-proclaimed king of “selfies”.