In Paris, Munetsi found love, hope 

Source: In Paris, Munetsi found love, hope | The Herald

In Paris, Munetsi found love, hopeIN GREAT COMPANY . . . Marshall Munetsi (Right) posed for pictures with some of the global superstars including Manchester United and Brazil midfielder Carlos Henrique Casemiro (centre) during the FIFA Best awards.

Robson Sharuko-H-Metro Editor

MARSHALL Munetsi didn’t look out of place at the annual star-studded football Oscars where FIFA parcels out awards to the best footballers of the previous year.

On Monday, in Paris, the city of love, he took his seat in an auditorium which housed the elite athletes of world football — from Messi to Mbappe, from Martinez to Modric, from Haaland to Hakim and from Kevin to Karim.

He posed for a photograph with Virgil van Dijk, a player he revealed he likes a lot, and had another one with Casemiro, the Brazilian who is a leading member of their defensive midfield brotherhood.

Munetsi didn’t gate-crash into this exclusive party.

He had an invitation, passed to him by FIFPro, in his capacity as a member of the organisation’s Global Player Council.

Munetsi is one of 34 active players who sit on the GPC, a powerful vehicle which ensures that viewpoints, from both men’s and women’s football, and different leagues around the world, are heard.

“When decisions are being made, which affect their livelihoods, footballers deserve a forum to have their concerns addressed,” FIFPro said.

“The Global Player Council is a vehicle for players with demonstrated leadership qualities to raise issues they have.”

Italian legend Giorgio Chiellini, Arturo Vidal, Rui Patricio, Andre Onana, Andre Ayew, Simon Mignolet and Rui Patricio, the Portuguese ‘keeper who plays for Italian side AS Roma, are some of the prominent members of the Council.

“It was such an honour to be invited by FIFPro to witness the amazing ceremony and interact with some of the best to ever play the game and also meet some people who have a big influence in how the game is managed globally,” Munetsi said.

Therein lies the irony of Munetsi’s presence in Paris on Monday.

While Zimbabwean football has been reeling from its fatal attraction to the worst possible administrators ever to have a dance with the beautiful game, its players are considered good enough to get key posts on such international platforms.

The brutal reality is that even though Munetsi’s leadership qualities are now widely accepted around the world, he would struggle, if he wanted, to get even ONE vote, for instance, if he retired from the game today, and tried his luck in the next polls for the ZIFA presidency.

For the avoidance of doubt, James Takavada, the 1984 Soccer Star of the Year and a legend of domestic football, with a distinguished career for club and country, polled just ONE vote in the elections for the ZIFA presidency in 2014.

In statistical terms, this means that Takavada, despite his proven track record in local football, got just 1.7 percent of the vote while Cuthbert Dube, who retained his seat as ZIFA president, powered back into power with 75.8 percent of the vote.

It didn’t matter to those who took part in the vote that a football legend, Kalusha Bwalya, just across the border in Zambia, had just masterminded the country’s maiden AFCON success story in Gabon, just two years earlier.

In December 2015, Nigel Munyati, a fine player in his day, did not receive even a single vote, with even those who had nominated him deciding to cast their vote elsewhere, in the poll for the ZIFA presidency in 2015.

For a man, whose Aces Youth Soccer Academy had provided the Warriors with its two best players at that time — Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona — this was a blow below the belt and a sign of the rot within the domestic game’s structures.

In total, during a period of about 12 months, two former players, including one who was now running the country’s most productive academy, polled just ONE vote, in two elections, for the ZIFA presidency.

Domestic football’s hostility towards the legends who starred on the fields, when the time comes for them to try and serve their game in the corridors of power, has been one of the reasons the game finds itself in a quagmire.

These footballers come from a background where they are taught that the game is won and lost on a level playing field, where they don’t have to bribe their opponents, or for them to be bribed, to influence the outcome.

So, when they plunge into the messy world of domestic football, where the power games are decided by who pays the best bribes, rather than who has the capacity to provide the best leadership, they are bullied out of the race.

Munetsi’s passion for his Warriors, in particular, and domestic football, in general, is there for everyone to see.

He has been a leading voice, among the top players, calling for a speedy resolution of the impasse, which led to the country’s suspension from FIFA.

It’s an issue he raised in Paris on Monday night.

“l was also privileged to meet some FIFA officials, who shed a bit of light on the current situation of our national team,” he said.

 “Meeting players like Virgil van Dijk, who l really like a lot, was something for me.”

We all know that, given a choice, Munetsi would have preferred meeting the likes of van Dijk on the pitch, in the colours of the Warriors, in a World Cup showdown, than at a star-studded gala in Paris.

Hopefully, his interactions with the FIFA officials, will in a small but big way, help in leading to the breaking of the barriers, which have kept his Warriors out of the international fold for more than a year now.

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