Zimbabwe’s Fifa suspension looks unlikely to be lifted ahead of the June Afcon qualifiers Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry, has hinted.
“The way forward is that Zifa ExCo will remain suspended until the courts have finished their proceedings (on corruption and allegations),” Coventry told parliament.
Yesterday Zimbabwe was drawn with Liberia, South Africa and Morocco in the Afcon 2023 qualifiers.
However, Caf said the Warriors can only play if the suspension is lifted two weeks before the qualifiers begin.
In February, the world football governing body Fifa banned Zimbabwe and demanded an immediate reversal of the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspension of the Zifa board.
The Fifa sanction also prevents football clubs from representing the country in continental competitions, such as the African Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup.
Fifa had initially given the SRC up to 3 January 2022 to reinstate the Zifa board. Still, it proceeded to take over all AFCON preparations and appointed an acting secretary-general to lead the Warriors at the finals.
Coventry’s sentiments come after SRC says the lifting of the suspension is not “priority”.
“The lifting of the suspension is not our priority now. Our priority is in restructuring the manner in which football administration is undertaken in Zimbabwe. Issues relating to the FIFA suspension will be addressed when the SRC is satisfied that the reform process within ZIFA itself has been completed to its own satisfaction,” SRC Board chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa told The NewsReport.
Mlotshwa poured cold water on prospects of engaging ZIFA any longer adding that the congress will decide on a way forward for the Kamambo led board.
“All our efforts were spent. The action to suspend the ZIFA Executive Committee was taken after the SRC Board concluded that there was no longer any point in trying to engage the ZIFA Executive Committee as clearly, they were not interested in that. What must be understood is that the ZIFA Executive Committee is not Zimbabwe football. The Zimbabwe Football family is greater than the ZIFA Executive Committee. Yes, we know that there will be a point when the SRC and the wider football family in the country that is the ZIFA Congress will sit down and agree on how best to move forward. However, this will happen in the fullness of time,” Mlotshwa said.
Kamambo and his board were suspended following alleged mismanagement of Fifa and government funds and donations towards numerous national team campaigns.
The other charges are sexual harassment.
Just one more dance!
Gerald Takwara will not quickly forget his man-of-the-match performance for Zimbabwe at the Africa Cup of Nations finals against host nation and continental powerhouse Cameroon.
For the 27-year-old midfielder, just being selected in Zimbabwe’s squad for the Cameroon trip was something he wouldn’t have predicted a few months before the tournament.
He played all three pool matches for the Warriors, who were eliminated in the first round. And Takwara was outstanding.
It’s not that Takwara doesn’t believe in his ability as a footballer. His pleasant surprise at being called up to the Afcon-bound squad was mainly because he doesn’t play for any one of the big Zimbabwean or South African clubs or overseas.
He plies his trade at a South African second-tier club, Venda Football Academy, hardly the kind of team to find a national team player for the continent’s biggest football tournament.
But the former Ngezi Platinum and Cape Town FC player now fears his international career could be hurtling to an end after Fifa suspended Zimbabwe for government interference in the affairs of the national federation, Zifa.
It certainly could be the end for him if the Zifa board is not reinstated by the start of the qualifiers.
“International football is the highest form of football, and any player wants that,” Takwara told The NewsReport from his base in South Africa.
“Some of us were now forgotten, but the moment I came back into the Warriors, this happened. Who knows when we will be reinstated again? Age is no longer on my side; this is bad.”
“You are ruining our careers”
While SRC and Zifa are locked in a fierce battle, the distant cry of players seems to be muffled in the ongoing tug-of-war.
Zimbabwe international and Reims midfielder, Marshall Munetsi, was one of the first players to express dismay over the suspension, calling on SRC to dialogue with Zifa.
“The ban on our national teams from international football and our local teams from international cup competitions is quite sad. Football has since evolved into a sport that’s more than just a sport; many livelihoods now depend on it; it’s a source of hope during tough times,” Munetsi wrote on Twitter in February.
Others believe former players should speak up against government interference in football.
“The government interfered, and they know what they are supposed to do. This thing is political; they are thinking of themselves. In the future, players will start stealing and doing other unruly things. Older former players should speak out; they should be helping Zimbabwean football,” Zambia based Zesco United midfielder Thabani Kamusoko said.
24-year-old United States- based footballer, Nyasha Dube said the suspension had dented his prospects for more exposure in international football.
Dube plays for Little Rock Rangers in the USL League Two, a national semi-professional league at the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid.
Dube, who made his debut for the Warriors in 2021 at the Cosafa Cup, commented that more international caps would improve his chances of attracting bigger clubs in Europe.
“For young players like me, it is more important to have more international caps.Most clubs look at that; the more caps you have, the more visible you become,” he said.
As the SRC and Zifa are locked up in a fierce battle, player agents have weighed in, saying the suspension is terrible for football business.
Football business on hold
Trust Nyambiya, a player agent who manages several Warriors players like Thabani Kamusoko, said the players and agents were already suffering the effects of the suspension.
“Agents and players are like fish and water. The fight between SRC and ZIFA is affecting players. These players and agents are innocent, but we are suffering,” Nyambiya said.
He said local players had been shut out from the world.
“When players are playing big matches, they have better chances. There are leagues like Morocco where for them to sign a player, they should have a recent cap. If a player does not have a recent cap, you cannot negotiate a contract. They need to sit down and talk.”
Another talent scout, Kudzai Chitima, added that local players could not move abroad while the suspension remained.
“From my understanding of the ban, yes, it does affect the transfer of players,” Chitima said.
“Locally, transfers can be done without a problem, but a local player cannot move abroad.”
Chitima said Zimbabwean football had been dealt another blow after enduring nearly two years under lockdown when sporting activities like football were suspended.
“It will negatively affect clubs, especially those with a model to scout and sell players abroad since it is under suspension. It also reduces the confidence in the corporate brand, that is Zimbabwe. So, the engagement with Fifa should continue so that Zimbabwe as a country does not spend much time on the sidelines while talent regresses.”
Until a solution is found, Zimbabwean players would only dream of adorning the national colours again.
For now, they will be watching the SRC, Zifa catfight with keen interest that perhaps they could put their differences aside for the sake of the “beautiful game”.