• World body threatens severe sanctions

fifaPetros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
WORLD soccer governing body Fifa yesterday issued a chilling warning to Zimbabwe and revealed that the country could face severe sanctions and be ostracised from the global football family should government press ahead with threats to dissolve the ZIFA board.

Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga last week piled on the pressure on troubled ZIFA when she told Parliament that her ministry was considering disbanding the association’s leadership regardless of the consequences that would see Fifa ban Zimbabwe.

In her response, during a question and answer session in the National Assembly, Kanengoni-Malinga said Government was not happy with the way the game was being run in the country.

“It is true that as a ministry we are not happy with the way ZIFA is running football affairs,” Kanengoni-Malinga said.

“In terms of Fifa regulations, we should not be seen interfering. Our view as Government is that it is better that we are suspended as a country as we clean up the mess at ZIFA.

“When we complete serving the suspension, we will return to international football at a time when we would have strengthened our systems. We will not be the first country to be suspended; that has been done to other countries after they felt that it was better to intervene to strengthen their football,” Kanengoni-Malinga said.

Malinga then repeated her call at a press conference a day later, insisting that ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube needed to resign or risk having the government invoking the “necessary measures including the dissolution of his board as parts of measures to clean up the domestic game”.

The Deputy Minister’s remarks drew widespread media coverage and Fifa indicated that their attention had been drawn by those widely publicised threats.

In their reaction over the weekend Fifa warned that they would not hesitate to ban Zimbabwe from international football.

Fifa, who had earlier on Friday indicated that they were monitoring the situation at ZIFA, also warned that a suspension of Zimbabwe would mean that none of the countries that are affiliated to the world body would be allowed to entertain contact with the nation.

The Fifa warning was contained in a letter which the world body’s secretary-general Jerome Valcke wrote to Dube following the reports and was copied to the Confederation of African Football.

Valcke also asked the ZIFA president to furnish the world body with a report on the situation in the domestic game with the Fifa Number Two man outlining the nature of the sanctions that would be imposed on Zimbabwe in the event that the association’s leadership was disbanded.

“We have learnt from media reports that the Zimbabwean authorities have supposedly discussed the possibility to disband the board of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA)

“Should the allegations prove to be true, we would like to remind you that according to articles 13 and 17 of the Fifa statutes, ZIFA has to manage its affairs independently and with no influence by any third parties. Failure to do so would be considered as a violation of the FIFA statutes and ZIFA would be subject to sanctions, including a suspension.

‘‘In addition, the suspension would only be lifted once the status quo would be restored.

“Lastly, a suspension would mean that all FIFA member associations would not entertain sporting contacts with ZIFA and that ZIFA would not benefit from any program or financial assistance from Fifa and CAF.

“We thank you to inform the interested parties accordingly and to provide us with a report on the situation as soon as possible,’’ wrote Valcke.

This also comes as the Sport and Recreation Commission board led by acting chairman Edward Siwela and which included members Aisha Tsimba, Dave Ellman-Brown, Jessie Nyakatawa, and Miriam Mushayi met with the entire ZIFA board at the instigation of the Ministry on Saturday.

Siwela told the media that ZIFA were saddled with a funding problem and that his Commission was also assessing the situation in the association’s board which has been characterized by cracks that have also drawn the ire of Kanengoni-Malinga.

ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said yesterday that Dube would first meet with the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Andrew Langa and Malinga to present to them Valcke’s letter and its implications.

“Fifa want a report from ZIFA on what is going on because they picked the issue from the media reports and they also want us to officially advise the authorities of the Fifa position on the matter.

“So the ZIFA president will take the letter to the Minister. It must be remembered that the last time that the country was ostracised from international football was in 1965 in the Rhodesia era when the country failed to comply with Fifa demands for non-racial discrimination in football.

“In this case we will be inviting sanctions on ourselves if Fifa were to ban Zimbabwe,’’ Mashingaidze said.

However it is the threats issued by Valcke in his letter that is also set to torch debate among stakeholders on whether it is wise or not for Zimbabwe to disband the ZIFA board and take the risk of being banned by Fifa or to find ways to whip the leadership into line without violating the world body’s statutes.

A ban on Zimbabwe and loss of contact with all Fifa affiliates would also mean that Zimbabwe would not take part in any of the activities that come under the auspices of the African Union’s protocols with Fifa and CAF.

The AU for which Zimbabwe has just assumed leadership following the election of President Robert Mugabe to chair the umbrella body last Friday, has such protocols like the Memorandum of Understanding to use the universal appeal of football as a platform to advocate and promote social change in Africa, through such initiatives as the “Make Peace Happen Campaign’’, which was signed in Addis Ababa on June 14, 2012.

Fifa have also been helping in Somalia where football was previously outlawed under Al Shaabab reign until the African Union troops and the Somali National Army secured vast regions in the country, flushing out extremists and re-igniting among other things Somalis appetite for football. Other than regaining its flavour across the horn of Africa country, football is keeping thousands of youths away from crime in Somalia with the transforming the lives of young people in a country where majority of them are targeted by the Al Shabaab and forced into terrorist activities