The Sunday Mail
THE local football saga took another twist on December 21 and the date January 3, 2022 became popular.
The haggling between the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has since spilled into FIFA corridors of power and tomorrow has become D-Day for Zimbabwe football.
On December 21, ZIFA received a letter from FIFA directing the SRC to reinstate the ZIFA Board by January 3 or face possible sanctions from the world soccer governing body.
The ZIFA Board was suspended by the SRC on November 16 for gross incompetence and other charges including mismanagement of funds, lack of accountability in the use of public funds, sexual harassment of female referees and failure to develop football from grassroots.
The SRC proceeded to appoint a nine-member Restructuring Committee led by business executive Blessing Rugara, which was tasked to ensure best practice in football administration.
SRC chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa made it clear that the committee was not there to replace the suspended ZIFA Board, as the association’s secretariat would continue to run the day-to-day affairs.
FIFA have, however, stepped in and directed the SRC to reinstate the ZIFA Board by January 3 (tomorrow) as it considers the suspension to be against its statutes, especially Articles 14 and 19. These stipulate that all FIFA member associations are obliged to manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties.
“In this context, we consider that the aforementioned decisions by the SRC to suspend all members of the ZIFA executive committee based on mere allegations without proof of a final and binding ruling, and subsequently to appoint a ‘restructuring committee’ in lieu of the ZIFA executive committee would appear to be clearly contrary to the above statutory principles.
“As a consequence, should such decisions be considered by FIFA to constitute undue third-party interference in the internal affairs of ZIFA, the appropriate sanctions may have to be imposed on ZIFA by the competent FIFA body.
“In such a case, all of Zimbabwean football would suffer the consequences, especially on the eve of the AFCON 2021,” read part of the letter from FIFA.
But the SRC says it will only respond once it gets “official” communication from FIFA.
“The SRC is yet to receive any official communication addressed to it from FIFA.
“When that happens it will respond officially,” said Mlotshwa.
The Warriors are already in Cameroon for the AFCON finals where they are set to open their campaign with a mammoth clash against Senegal on January 10.
The impasse between ZIFA and SRC could, however, be a damper to current tournament preparations.
Football experts are naturally concerned.
Former ZIFA chairperson Rafik Khan, who ran ZIFA between 2004 and 2006, has been following developments from a distance and is worried by the squabbles.
“I hold no grudges with anyone, I have been watching and following football from the sidelines, and I am also concerned about the current impasse between ZIFA and the SRC,” Khan told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“Let me hasten to say that there is no way an association like ZIFA should not be held accountable by the SRC, the sports governing body. “Even FIFA are aware that ZIFA has to be accountable to the SRC, who are the custodian of sport in the country,” he said.
The former Premier Soccer League chair believes the SRC could have done its homework before making such a big decision to suspend the ZIFA Board.
“From what I have been observing, it seems the SRC are standing on firm ground.
“They wouldn’t have done what they did (suspending the ZIFA Board) if they were not sure of the route that the case would take.
“One thing that is clear though is that some of the councillors in the ZIFA Assembly need to be kicked out.
“Some of them are corrupt to the core in the way they conduct their business.
“Imagine, there are some councillors whom I kicked out of football when I was still chairperson some 25 years ago but they have bounced back.
“I don’t know why our football attracts corrupt people,” he said.
The SRC have already started pursuing councillors believed to have received bribes to vote for ZIFA president Felton Kamambo during the 2018 poll.
Talent scout and former Warriors coach Wieslaw Grabowski wants ZIFA and the SRC to smoke the peace pipe.
“Tolerance and compromise breed success. The SRC and ZIFA have to find a way to solve this crisis; of course, with the help of FIFA,” said Grabowski.
“It’s a fact things have not been well in local football, we are in a mess and there is need to redress the situation.
“But, football has to benefit at the end of the day. Zimbabwe should have the freedom to play international football; this is the most important thing.
“I would suggest that the best move would be for the SRC to lift the suspension and ask FIFA about the way forward.
“The process has to be led by FIFA.”
Football fans are also anxious as they do not know what will become of the Warriors, who are already gearing for the AFCON finals.
Joseph Mutawu, Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association secretary, said both the SRC and ZIFA should bear in mind that all that fans want is for football to continue.
“The two bodies should not allow the situation to deteriorate to an extent that we get banned from international football.
“This affects families of footballers, officials and coaches.
“It will also affect the players careers,” said Mutawu.
“At the same time, we need to clean the mess in our football.
“We all know things are not okay, and people should just be level-headed and admit we need to make sure football is taken care of.
“Football is a national issue and not a personal issue.
“We have people involved in this mess who are taking advantage of the so-called clauses which protect them, but we must put Zimbabwe first.”
George Mbwando, a member of the first group of Warriors to qualify for a maiden AFCON final in 2004, is wary about Zimbabwe’s status at the upcoming finals in Cameroon.
“Whatever they do, both the SRC and ZIFA just need to do anything that saves the tournament,” said the Germany-based former Blackpool star player.
Former Ziscosteel player and coach Bernard Zikhali has urged the SRC to reinstate the ZIFA Board and seek guidance from FIFA.
“I am not sympathising with ZIFA, but I am sympathising with football in Zimbabwe.
“I know everything is not right at ZIFA … You don’t correct a wrong by a wrong,” he
“The FIFA rule is straight forward, they have to be consulted and they are the ones to call the tune at the end of the day.
“So, if every country is going to be allowed to dismiss or suspend its football association or sports associations in general, I think things will be chaotic.
“ZIFA is wrong but on the other hand to suspend them without going through . . . FIFA is wrong …
“Let FIFA do its own thing . . .”