Zanu PF factions takes football into new battle ground

HARARE – Deputy minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, says government will press ahead with plans aimed at cleaning up the mess at local football mother body, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) despite Fifa’s threat to ban the country from international football if that happens.

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INSISTING ON CHANGE:  Deputy sports minister Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga

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Last week, Kanengoni-Malinga said government was willing to risk a Fifa ban by interfering in the running of local football, than to continue watching the sport deteriorate under the current Zifa leadership.

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The cabinet Minister belongs to Vice-President Mnangagwa’s faction and Cuthert Dube is aligned to the ousted Mujuru faction. It is believed that Mnangagwa wants to outs Dube and replace him with his niece convicted match-fixer Hanriatte Rushwaya.

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In a no holds barred statement in parliament, Kanengoni-Malinga said government was fed-up with the Dube-led Zifa which stands accused of “not showing any seriousness to the cause of our sport.”

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But in a letter to Zifa, Fifa warned against government intervention, stating that any such action would lead to Zimbabwe being banned from all Fifa-related activities including sporting contacts with Fifa member associations. A ban by Fifa would also mean Zimbabwe would not benefit from any program or financial assistance from Fifa and its affiliate, the Confederation of African Football (Caf).

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Despite the looming threat of a ban, Kanengoni-Malinga insists government will not be deterred.

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“We are not backing down. We want what is best for football and we are pretty sure most people out there want the same. So we have to keep pushing because backing down would mean submitting to the status quo which we feel is not good for our football,” said Kanengoni-Malinga.

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“So we are going to sit down as government and the SRC (Sports and Recreation Commission) and chart a way forward, but the bottom line at the end of the day is that it (the action that will be taken) has to yield a positive result for football and leave us in a better situation than where we are now.

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“Of course it doesn’t necessarily have to start with us interfering directly. There are routes that we can take to remedy the situation and we also need the current (Zifa) leadership to admit they have failed and step down.”

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In light of the recent ban threat by Fifa in the event that the ministry step in to address the situation at Zifa, Kanengoni-Malinga feels the world football governing body should change its approach in the way it addresses cases of government or third party interference in football affairs.

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“What we want is for Fifa to take things on a case by case basis. They should look at whether football is being run properly in the concerned country before writing any letters or making threats,” she added.

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Fifa is however known for its insistence on adhering to the provisions of its statutes and Zimbabwe will almost certainly be added to the list of countries that have been suspended by Fifa following interference by non-football parties if government  intervenes in Zifa affairs.

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In recent years, countries such as Greece, Kuwait, Brunei, Peru, Iran, Nigeria, Ethiopia and Iraq, among others, have fallen victim of Fifa’s no interference policy.

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The Greek Football Federation (EPO) was banned on July 3, 2006 following an international competition because of the alleged politicisation of football in the country. The ban was lifted four days later after new laws were passed by the Greek parliament to make the EPO more independent.

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In 2007, Fifa banned Kuwait from international football over government intervention in the electoral process of that country’s football federation. The sanctions were also applied to senior national team players and clubs. The ban was only lifted after the football association elections were re-run in accordance with Fifa guidelines.

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Peru were banned for a month between November-December 2008 after the country’s government refused to recognise the election of Manuel Burga as Peruvian Football federation (FPF) president, while Iran were also banned from November-December 2006 following government intervention in the country’s football association elections.

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The same fate befell Nigeria, Ethiopia and Iraq in 2010, 2008 and 2009, respectively, with the bans on the affected countries later lifted after due Fifa processes were followed.

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