ZIFA UNDER FIRE NEW1
Sikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO and Eddie Chikamhi in HARARE—

THE chorus for the resignation of Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and his entire board grew louder yesterday following the national team’s expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers by world football governing body FIFA and a Cabinet minister believes this is the “smoking gun” that should trigger leadership changes at the association.

Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo set the tone shortly after FIFA made its announcement — placing the blame for the debacle squarely at the feet of the embattled ZIFA boss, Cuthbert Dube.

“This is the smoking gun that should be used to bring the needed change at the helm of ZIFA,” Prof Moyo said on Twitter (@ProfJNMoyo).

And last night, Sports Deputy Minister Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, who last month was labelled “crazy” by ZIFA CEO Jonathan Mashingaidze after she led calls to have the ZIFA board dissolved, said the Government would now certainly intervene.

FIFA acted after ZIFA failed to meet a 180-day deadline to pay former national team coach Jose Valinhos $60 000 owed to him following his sacking in 2008.

Kanengoni-Malinga said the move by FIFA did not come as a surprise “because ZIFA has been on a downward spiral for some time now”.

She said she felt vindicated as FIFA had laid bare that Dube and Mashingaidze were ruining football in Zimbabwe.

“I spoke about it before when I was trying to find a solution, but Mashingaidze and Cuthbert Dube thought they had it under control. It shows now that I am not ‘crazy’ as Mashingaidze suggested,” said the deputy minister, who spoke after her boss Andrew Langa last night told Chronicle Sport that he was “not aware” that Zimbabwe had been banned.

Kanengoni-Malinga, with her previous calls to disband ZIFA, drew fire from FIFA at the behest of Mashingaidze. FIFA warned that Zimbabwe would be kicked out of all tournaments, including the World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations, if the Government interfered.

The deputy minister said then, as she repeated yesterday, that there was nothing to lose as Dube and his ZIFA board were taking the country nowhere.

“There was really nothing to protect then, but now that we are finally banned, we have to do something and that we will do,” she vowed last night.

With the expulsion, ZIFA will now have a $300 000 grant due from FIFA for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers withheld by the world football governing body.

The draw for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers will be held on July 25, with the matches kicking off on October 5, 2015.

Valinhos was employed by a previous board led by Wellington Nyatanga, but the current board knew the obligations they inherited when they came into office in 2010 and have repeatedly been engaged by Fifa to service the debt from the time the Brazilian won his appeal.

The expulsion from the preliminary round qualifiers came on the same day when the national team plunged to another low on the world rankings after dropping to number 124.

According to the latest FIFA rankings released yesterday, Zimbabwe paid dearly for their inactivity as they tumbled six places down the ladder, while they also fell on the continental rankings to 39th place.

Former Premier Soccer League secretary-general Chris Sambo, who has been calling for the dismissal of the Zifa board, said his fears have been confirmed.

Sambo demanded that Dube must step down following the decision by Fifa to throw Zimbabwe out of the next World Cup. The veteran administrator said the future looked bleak and that the Warriors will continue to tumble on the world rankings with the current administration.

“If the truth has to be said, the Zifa board and everyone to do with our football must step down with immediate effect since there is no more football left to administer in this country. The Zifa board must be disbanded,” said Sambo.

Lifelong Footballers Trust of Zimbabwe chairman Francis Zimunya, whose group has been advocating for the disbandment of the Zifa board, said his organisation’s calls have been vindicated.

Zimunya said Dube and his entire administration should leave office as a matter of urgency since they have failed the nation on many things.

“They knew about this debt and what was at stake, according to the communication from FIFA. At least they were made aware of this debt to the coach well after Cuthbert Dube had come into office and they ignored all those demands from FIFA.

“This is the hallmark of Zifa mismanagement of football affairs in this country. They don’t put their priorities right. They ignored instructions from the highest office in football as they always do.

“They always ignore the most important issues, and in the process they have destroyed everything Zimbabwean football stands for. The only honorable thing for them is to do is to resign en-masse. We have been vindicated, our actions have been vindicated by FIFA’s action, ” said Zimunya.

Footballers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Paul Gundani lamented the opportunity lost to the players to showcase their talents in the tournament as they will now have to wait for the 2022 qualifiers. The former Warriors player said the administration should take full responsibility.

“The latest development in which FIFA has dumped Zimbabwe’s participation in the 2018 World Cup preliminaries over debt robs players an opportunity to showcase their skills.

“This development was avoidable, and the ZIFA board and its administrative structure, must take full responsibility. Players continue to be the losers in the FA’’s shortcomings and the question is, ‘For how long will our game be subjected to such mediocre type of management?’” said Gundani.

Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association spokesperson Paddington Japajapa, a longtime critic of the association, said Sports Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa should now step into the fray and disband the Zifa board without fear of being banned.

“If there is any suitable time to clean up all the mess in Zimbabwean football this is the time. We are challenging the honourable Minister to take decisive action.

“If he was not prepared to take action before, this is the time now. There is no way the current Zifa board can take Zimbabwean soccer out of the doldrums. We must take advantage of the banishment,” said Japajapa.

Veteran sports administrator and social commentator Albert Nhamoyebonde said the riot action by Fifa has exposed Dube and his subordinates in a big way since they have for long sought to be untouchable and hiding behind the world football mother body to cover for their mismanagement.

“They have brought the name of the country into disrepute therefore I don’t see why they should continue in office. This is totally unacceptable. The Zifa council should convene as soon as possible and decide what to do with their leadership.

“But to me it’s a foregone conclusion that a new officers must be elected. These guys have been hiding behind Fifa for long and now that Fifa themselves have seen their incompetence and sanctioned them, where will they run to?” said Nhamoyebonde.

Another sports administrator Bobby Chivaviro said Sports, Arts and Culture Minister Andrew Langa has to make a bold decision by firing the Zifa board or he should step down.

Chivaviro also said Zimbabwe could make an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland against both expulsion from the World Cup and Fifa ban should they decide to dissolve the Zifa board.

“There has to be a solution. If the minister can’t fire Zifa then he himself must resign. He must bite the bullet here, it’s very important. What is important is that we must have proper reason why we are disbanding Zifa.

“If we are banned by Fifa we must go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and seek recourse. There is no way we can say this kind of decadence should continue and wait for a next election to come (in 2018).

“If you are not happy with a Fifa decision you can go to the court of arbitration. But we must build and prove our case very well. The case here is very simple – maladministration and failure to manage the sport as a whole. Even this expulsion (from the World Cup), we must seek redress

“When Luis Suarez was banned by Fifa he went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the ban was lesson was reduced, which shows there is some authority which is above Fifa itself to look at our case,” said Chivaviro.