The lit­tle chief is in town

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Lang­ton Nyak­wenda

HE MIGHT not be as charis­matic as his pre­de­ces­sor Philip Chiyangwa, nor is he as flam­boy­ant as him, but there is this cap­ti­vat­ing and dis­arm­ing com­po­sure that is so strik­ing about Fel­ton Ka­mambo.

The 48-year-old Gu­ruve-born Ka­mambo is the new football sher­iff in town af­ter stun­ning Chiyangwa in last Sun­day’s Zifa pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and the for­mer cen­tral re­gion chair­per­son has been trend­ing al­most in the same vein as Jose Mour­inho’s sack­ing at Manch­ester United this past week.

Af­ter re­ceiv­ing over 10 000 con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sages via What­sapp, over 3 000 texts and a “spe­cial” call from United King­dom-based le­gendary for­mer War­riors goal­keeper Japhet “Short Cat” Mparutsa, there was hardly any time for Ka­mambo to cel­e­brate.

He met the Min­is­ter of Youth, Sport, Art and Re­cre­ation, Kirsty Coven­try, on Mon­day, af­ter which the swim­ming icon promised to help Zifa deal with its soar­ing debt.

On Tues­day, he paid Chiyangwa a cour­tesy call, and then met football stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing po­ten­tial spon­sors.

Ka­mambo turned down a lunch out­ing with his deputy Gift Banda and board mem­ber Chamu Chi­wanza last Thurs­day, pre­fer­ring in­stead to join his crew for din­ner.

And on Fri­day, he chaired his first ever Zifa Board meet­ing.

“This has been one of the busiest weeks of en­tire my life,” sighed Ka­mambo as we sat down for an in­ter­view at a Harare ho­tel.

Even then, he was very pop­u­lar with the ho­tel staff, most of whom pre­ferred to call him “pres­i­dent”, while some vis­i­tors would just stop for a sim­ple greet­ing.

A down-to-earth per­son­al­ity, who says he has noth­ing against Chiyangwa de­spite the lat­ter’s al­leged fu­tile and “un­eth­i­cal” at­tempts to bar him from con­test­ing in the elec­tions, Ka­mambo seems to have time for ev­ery­one.

“Soon af­ter the elec­tion re­sults were out, I re­ceived about 10 700 What­sapp mes­sages, on the SMS plat­form I have over 3 500 mes­sages and I made sure to re­ply each of them dur­ing the past week.

“Japhet Mparutsa called me from the UK and a num­ber of for­mer foot­ballers are happy with my as­cen­dancy but at the end of the day, I have to de­liver be­cause there are a lot of ex­pec­ta­tions. “Ex­cit­ing times lie ahead,” prom­ises Ka­mambo. But who ex­actly is this Ka­mambo, how deep are his football roots and from where did he get the courage to take a stub­born Chiyangwa head-on?

Ka­mambo is now a Grain Mar­ket­ing Board’s re­gional man­ager (North­ern), hav­ing joined the paras­tatal back in 1990 when he was still 20.

A for­mer stu­dent at Chin­hoyi High 2, Ka­mambo’s love for football was nur­tured at Mhangura, the near­est place from Chin­hoyi where the game was taken se­ri­ously.

“We would go to Mhangura to play soc­cer dur­ing school hol­i­days, I was part of Mhangura’s ju­nior teams be­fore grad­u­at­ing into the se­nior team.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I only played up to Divi­sion Two level for the club,” re­vealed Ka­mambo.

At the age of 20, Ka­mambo was al­ready in man­age­ment at GMB and, thus, his ob­ses­sion for football man­i­fested, thanks to the na­ture of his job which saw him be­ing trans­ferred from one district to an­other.

“I helped form Kadoma Grain Tigers in the early 1990s when I was trans­ferred to that area. I then went to Mure­hwa where I dis­cov­ered that there wasn’t a se­ri­ous football team in the area. We formed Mure­hwa United, a team that played up to Divi­sion Two and I was also a player there,” says Ka­mambo.

From Mure­hwa, he went to Sany­ati where again he over­saw the for­ma­tion of Sany­ati FC.

In Kwekwe, he mas­ter­minded the birth of Silo United. “I love grass­roots football a lot and I am one per­son who can spend a day watch­ing football at a growth point,” re­marks Ka­mambo.

“Silo United is one of my most trea­sured achieve­ments. This team pro­duced a num­ber of play­ers who went on to play in the Pre­mier Soc­cer League. The likes of Tak­abva Mawaya, Ed­more Chi­ram­badare and Makai Kawashu are some of our prod­ucts there.”

Ka­mambo re-launched Grain Tigers early this year and the team re­cently won pro­mo­tion into the North­ern Re­gion Divi­sion One league.

“I am a for­mer ju­nior player, a player, a chair­man, a di­rec­tor, a com­pany ex­ec­u­tive and now I am the Zifa pres­i­dent, that shows you the ex­pe­ri­ence I have.

“Be­ing the GMB re­gional man­ager cov­er­ing Harare, Mashona­land West and Cen­tral, my work sched­ule is so hec­tic, but I al­ways find time for football.

“Be­sides, I have a very sup­port­ive wife Ti­novim­banashe who stood by my side dur­ing that messy pre-elec­tion pe­riod.

“We talked about ev­ery­thing: those rape al­le­ga­tions they wanted to cook; even when I was ar­rested just 48 hours be­fore the elec­tion, she urged me on.

“‘Show Philip Chiyangwa you are also a man,’ she would de­mand,” re­vealed Ka­mambo, the fa­ther of two daugh­ters - Prim­rose (24) and Michelle (22).

“How­ever, it is now time to put elec­tion­eer­ing aside, it’s time to work. That’s why I paid Philip (Chiyangwa) that cour­tesy call. The good thing also is that we have a lis­ten­ing Min­is­ter of Sport.

“Min­is­ter Coven­try has high ex­pec­ta­tions of the new Zifa board. She wants us to fol­low the con­sti­tu­tion and do ev­ery­thing ac­cord­ing to the book.

“She also promised to as­sist us to clear the Zifa debt. In­di­ca­tions are that Govern­ment is will­ing to take up the debt, but only af­ter we in­sti­tute an au­dit which proves that all of that money was used for foot­ball­re­lated mat­ters.” Amongst some is­sues he wants his board to at­tend to im­me­di­ately is the for­ma­tion of youth leagues at provin­cial level. “We want to build the base first, both for women and men’s soc­cer. We also want to fi­nalise the Zifa House is­sue, but for now, we will op­er­ate our busi­ness from the Na­tional Sports Sta­dium.”

Fel­ton Ka­mambo

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