from MARCUS MUSHONGA in Harare, Zimbabwe
HARARE, (CAJ News) – WITH the national team’s expulsion from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers, Zimbabwe’s football has hit rock bottom.
The confirmation by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) that the Warriors would not take part in the competition following an earlier ban by the Federation of International Football (FIFA) has sparked outrage in the football-mad country.
FIFA, which does not take kindly to government interference, slapped Zimbabwe with sanction following the meddling of the government-run Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) in the affairs of the beleaguered Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA).
The refusal by the SRC to reinstate the ZIFA board led by president, Felton Kamambo, incurred the wrath of FIFA.
SRC alleges corruption and misuse of funds in the football mother body.
Former and current players as well as the fans in general have lambasted the fallout, which has led to the isolation of Zimbabwe from international football, including club competitions.
ZIFA spokesman, Xolisile Gwala, refused to comment about the matter only saying: “I’m currently not commenting on that (matter) until appropriate time.”
However, ZIFA acting president, Gift Banda, has pleaded for patience.
“Admittedly, it is painful that our country will, for the first time, not participate in the qualifiers of Africa’ flagship tournament,” Banda stated.
“But it is of paramount importance to emphasise that there is a myriad of problems bedeviling our beautiful game and authorities have embarked on firm corrective measures to reform the game.”
It is the second time in as many years Zimbabwe has faced the wrath of CAF.
However, current Zimbabwe players abroad did not stomach not watching their Warriors in action at the big stage.
Worse, the expulsion comes at a time the Zimbabwe Warriors were firing on all cylinders while fully prepared to clash with their long time rivals and neighbour – South Africa’s Bafana Bafana.
One of Zimbabwe’s veteran South African-based goalkeeper, Tapuwa Kapini, accused the SRC and ZIFA of “killing” Zimbabwe football.
He alleged corruption was hindering the progress of the sport.
“Instead of going forward, we are going backwards,” the Skhukhune United player lamented.
Retired midfielder, Gabriel Nyoni, also expressed concern at the expulsion of Zimbabwe from the AFCON qualifiers.
“Many careers are at stake,” he said.
With the economic situation in Zimbabwe dire, most players use national team games as a platform to neighbouring South Africa and overseas.
Players are persistently on strike over money, most recently at Harare side, CAPS United.
“Whatever they (SRC and ZIFA) are doing has a huge bearing on the players, all for their own personal egos,” Nyoni said.
“It also has a multiplier effect on the young generation that wants to take football as a professional career. SRC and ZIFA should fix this.”
It has emerged CAF has given Zimbabwe a lifeline.
They must put their house in order ahead of the African Nations Championship (CHAN), rescheduled for 2023 in Algeria.
Sources claimed President Emmerson Mnngagwa and FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, discussed the expulsion when the pair met at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.
However, the reinstatement seems highly unlikely with the SRC maintains its hard stance.
Gerald Mlotshwa, the SRC board chairman, told media that the AFCON qualifiers were not a priority.
The continental footballing body has barred Zimbabwe from hosting international matches because of substandard stadia.
If the Warriors had not been expelled from Group K, where they were to play Liberia, Morocco and South Africa, they faced the embarrassment of playing their home matches outside the country.
Zimbabwe have qualified five teams for the AFCON and never progressed to the knockout stage.
– CAJ News