Another coach bombshell

SAINTFIETSikhumbuzo Moyo in BULAWAYO
JUST a week after the Hurricane Valinhos struck, it has emerged Zimbabwe could face further sanctions as ZIFA have been sitting on another explosive case involving Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet, who won $150 000 in damages after taking his case to FIFA.

Saintfiet, who originally was claiming $451 086.46 and is being represented by Spanish lawyers Ruiz, Huerta and Crespo, obtained a writ of execution after being awarded $150 000 in damages for coaching the Warriors for just one day, during the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.

The Belgian coach was smuggled onto the Warriors coaching staff by the previous ZIFA board led by Cuthbert Dube in 2010 and took charge of two training sessions for the Warriors in one day in the week leading to a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium.

He signed a deal to coach the Warriors for four years, but his romance with the Warriors ended after just one day following his deportation for flouting the country’s immigration rules by working without a work permit.

Saintfiet engaged Spanish lawyers Ruiz, Huerta and Crespo, who, like their Brazilian counterparts Bichara and Motta, the lawyers used by Valinhos in his successful battle to get FIFA to sanction ZIFA for non-payment of his dues, are specialists when it comes to sports cases and disputes.

The nomadic Belgian coach accused ZIFA of conspiracy in the way his farcical engagement as the Warriors’ coach and subsequent deportation was handled and pleaded with FIFA to launch an investigation into Dube’s management of local football.

ZIFA were heavily criticised by the local media for the way they imposed Saintfiet on a Warriors’ coaching staff that was stable under the guidance of Norman Mapeza, who was being assisted by Madinda Ndlovu, and who had gone to Liberia and picked a priceless point in the first game of the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.

The arrival of Saintfiet rocked that boat and triggered confusion among the Warriors, while also exposing the fault lines that existed within the ZIFA board then, with one group backing Mapeza, while the other one was in support of the Belgian coach.

ZIFA were forced to flight an advertorial, in the local mainstream newspapers accusing the media of mischief, while painting a picture of unity in their support for Saintfiet as the head coach of the Warriors.

“First and foremost, we hereby confirm that the ZIFA Board is united in its decision to accept the Selection Committee’s recommendation that we appoint Mr Tom Saintfiet as the Men’s Senior National Soccer Team Coach,” the advertorial read.

“The Board decided that Mr Norman Mapeza, who was caretaker coach, should be offered the position of Assistant Coach and be offered the opportunity to receive the necessary training to prepare him for the eventual position of National Coach.

“Mr Madinda Ndlovu was also offered the position of Assistant National Team Coach.”

Saintfiet has been using that as part of his evidence that he was, indeed, engaged to coach the Warriors and should be paid for damages, for the duration of his four-year contract, even though he was deported after coaching the team for just a day.

Interestingly, ZIFA have also been taken to court by the advertising agency, which prepared that advertorial, after the association failed to pay it for its services.

Now, an atomic bomb is set to be dropped on the Zimbabwean football terrain following shocking revelations that ZIFA have been sitting on Saintfiet’s case since the Belgian coach won $150 000 in damages.

His case, which is in the corridors of FIFA, is similar to that of Valinhos, whose end result was the expulsion of Zimbabwe from the 2018 World Cup after ZIFA ignored numerous warnings and grace periods from the world football governing body.

Saintfiet’s case is one of nine cases that have a writ of execution against ZIFA, all totalling a staggering $2 553 063.45, according to confidential information obtained by The Chronicle, and the 100 creditors are owed a combined $6 135 965.50.

The other eight creditors with writs of executions are Viking Security ($15 934), who guarded the ZIFA headquarters in Harare, Traverze Travel ($65 747), who provided airfares, presumably for national teams and the association officials, Rainbow Towers ($52 069.30), who provided accommodation and meals for the association, New Ambassador Hotel ($25 928), for accommodating national teams.

LED Travel and Tours, owned by ZIFA board member Ben Gwarada, have a writ of execution for a $196 467.92 debt, while Pandhari Lodge ($232 987.23 for accommodation and meals) and Mapeza ($245 000 in salary arrears), are also in the same boat.

Saintfiet was not eager to discuss figures involved and other details pertaining to the case when contacted yesterday, but, crucially, confirmed that his case was being handled by FIFA, which means that it’s a carbon copy of the Valinhos’ case.

“I prefer not to comment on any amount or other things . . . for your information, FIFA is the court who rule about these cases,” said Saintfiet.

ZIFA’S controversial courtship of Saintfiet, while he was still contracted to the Namibia Football Association as their head coach, angered the Namibians, who slammed the local football authorities as unethical individuals who will be reported to FIFA.

“If it is proven that he has been talking to the Zimbabweans, we will have no choice but to take appropriate action and we will be guided by the rules and regulations regarding the transfer of players and coaches,” Barry Rukoro, the Namibia Football Association secretary-general told The Sunday Mail newspaper then.

“We will definitely report this matter to FIFA because it’s unethical for ZIFA to engage in private talks with our coach without our consent.

“Saintfiet is still under contract with us and it would really be unethical for Zifa or anyone to engage in any sort of discussion with him without consulting us.

“We have always respected ZIFA and we have had good relations over the years and it would be sad if they gave (Saintfiet) the job like you are saying,” Rukoko said.

ZIFA were also dragged to court by immigration authorities for letting Saintfiet work here when he did not have a work permit.

The blundering association was accused of contravening Section 10 (1) of the Immigration Act as read with Section 36 (1)(j) of the same act.

The Act states that, “No person shall employ a visitor to carry on an occupation unless the visitor has been issued with a work permit authorising such employment’’.

The ZIFA creditors’ list also shows that the beleaguered football association is owing statutory bodies like National Social Security Authority, $53 069.70 and the Sport and Recreation Commission $108 381.46 in levies.