John Madzima was one of the first black football administrators in the country and fought for equality in football. At 43 years of age, John Madzima became the first African to be elected chairman of the world recognised soccer body.


John Madzima was one of the founding members of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA). He earned an MBE from the Queen of the United Kingdom for bringing about changes to the then-segregated sport and putting Southern African football on the map.

Fighting For Equality in Football

A shrewd soccer administrator, Madzima was elected first chairman of the Mashonaland Football Club. He served as chairman of Salisbury and District AFA, and was president of the Mashonaland Provincial Association. Later he was elected president of the Southern Rhodesia African Football Association. All these bodies catered for African amateur football.

Madzima, an ardent supporter of multi-racial sport, decided to quit the Southern Rhodesia African Football Association on his own accord to help start multi-racial professional soccer in Rhodesia. And when the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Football league was formed, he became one of its first directors, together with Geoff Ellman-Brown and Charles Taber. There were two main professional teams then — Salisbury City and Salisbury United — and for the latter he was vice chairman to the late Ken Fox.

When Salisbury United and Salisbury City disbanded and the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Football league folded, Madzima was left with no alternative, but to look for someone still interested in multi-racial football. For a short while, Madzima helped to form what was known as the Central African Football Association (CENTAFA), which was composed of African, Coloured and Asian clubs.

This was disbanded in 1962 when Madzima joined Syd Matthews and others to found the Rhodesia National Football League (RNFL) and he became its vice-chairman in its first year, a position he held until elected chairman. After being elected chairman of RNFL, Madzima said: “It is a great honour for me and an unforgettable one. But my task, although big, is to promote soccer and to see that it is brought to the outlying districts of Rhodesia through the RNFL.

“I will do all in my power to follow in the footsteps of my predecessor, to whom I owe a lot. I shall not fail to seek his advice whenever possible.”[1]

Break away by teams

In 1975 Highlanders Football Club pulled out of the then Rhodesia National Football League over ill-treatment and dissatisfaction with the national administration led by John Madzima. In 1979 a number of Harare-based teams saw the wisdom behind Bosso action and joined them leading to the formation of the National Professional Soccer League.[2]


  1. The Rhodesia Herald, December 9 1967, [1], The Herald, Published: 15 May, 2020, Accessed: 15 December, 2020
  2. Sikhumbuzo Moyo, [2], Chronicle, Published: 8 April, 2020, Accessed: 15 December, 2020