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Govt extinguishes Warriors’ Afcon dream

Zimbabwe is currently serving a Fifa ban, which was imposed in February for what the international football body termed third party interference by the government in the running of the game in the country.


THE Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has emphatically declared the country’s participation in the 2023 Afcon qualifiers is not a priority as the window of opportunity opened by Caf slams shut this week.

Zimbabwe is currently serving a Fifa ban, which was imposed in February for what the international football body termed third party interference by the government in the running of the game in the country.

This was after the SRC, a body that reports to Sports minister Kirsty Coventry, had swooped into the affairs of local football in a bid to clean up the mess. They suspended the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) board led by Felton Kamambo in November last year over a litany of charges include gross incompetence, failure to account for public funds and sexual abuse of female referees.

In spite of the ban, which effectively barred the country from participating in international and regional events, Caf allowed Zimbabwe to enter the draw for the 2023 Afcon qualifiers, which are scheduled to start on June 1.

But Caf set conditions that Zimbabwe needed to meet for the Fifa ban to be lifted. The conditions included the unconditional reinstatement of Kamambo and his board at least two weeks before the first qualifying match.

The Warriors were drawn in Group K alongside neighbours South Africa, Liberia and Morocco, in Group K, and were set to begin their campaign at home against the Lone Star on June 9.

It means the ultimatum expires on Thursday this week and the country is waiting with baited breath to see if the SRC is going to budge.

“Let me be brutally clear about this, Afcon qualifiers are not a priority or a decision for the SRC right now. It’s as simple as that,” SRC board chairman Gerald Mlotshwa told The Standardsport.

Mlotshwa’s comment came after last week’s reports suggested that the SRC was angling to file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against Fifa’s decision to ban Zimbabwe from international competitions, paving the way for the senior football team to participate in the Afcon qualifiers.

However, the SRC chairman expressed shock at the reports.

“We don’t have a locus standi as SRC to approach CAS – why do you guys just write stories without at the very least asking SRC to comment? It’s a great disservice to the journalist profession,” he said.

The Zifa secretariat is understood to have already started preparations for the home match against Liberia, which is likely to be played in another country since local stadia are banned from hosting international events.

It is also understood that Zifa is desperate for the SRC to lift the ban on the association since the electoral college revoked Kamambo’s mandate and that of two other board members at an emergency meeting held in Harare last month.

The SRC has remained headstrong in its quest to clean up football and made clear its intentions by appointing a nine-member Zifa restructuring committee as part of its strategic roadmap towards addressing issues affecting domestic football management and administration last December.

Mlotshwa has been on record arguing that the country needs to take a step back from international engagements to allow for time to rebuild and refocus.

The ZIfa restructuring committee appealed for support and cooperation from local football fans and other stakeholders when it got down to business in March by holding consultative meetings with football stakeholders.

But it has since gone quiet in recent months.

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