Operation Rescue 2018 WC

RESCUE WORLD CUPSports Reporter
GOVERNMENT has launched an audacious bid to salvage Zimbabwe’s participation in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers with the State outlining plans to appeal to FIFA for the Warriors’ reinstatement in the competition.

Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane last night revealed plans to make a spirited appeal over Zimbabwe’s suspension that was triggered by ZIFA’s failure to pay former Warriors coach Valinhos his salary.

Hlongwane held a meeting with ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze after which he revealed, in a statement, that although they were filing their appeal out of time, he believed Zimbabwe still had a strong case that warranted FIFA’s consideration.

Zimbabwe were the only African country missing when the draw for the preliminary round of qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was held.

But Hlongwane believes all hope is not totally lost.

The minister said he believed the suspension from the global showcase was too drastic.

He also said ZIFA were to blame for the World Cup fiasco because they did not officially appeal against FIFA’s decision to kick the Warriors out of the tournament.

“The basis of the suspension was the failure by ZIFA to pay its $60 000 debt to former national coach Mr. Jose Claudinei Georgini (Valinhos),” the minister said in a statement.

“The suspension is too drastic a measure on Zimbabwe considering the amount in question and the effect to football in Zimbabwe.”

The minister also questioned ZIFA’s failure to make an appeal to FIFA on the expulsion which he felt raised serious questions about the domestic game’s leadership to have the Warriors take part in the competition.

“It is our aim to make an urgent appeal to FIFA on the suspension. The FIFA statutes provide for an appeal process but ZIFA has not made an appeal and, of course, this raises questions of complicity in the decision to have Zimbabwe kicked out of the tournament.

“In essence this will be the first proper and formal appeal to FIFA by Zimbabwe through ZIFA since the suspension April 2015.

“We note that we are out of time with regards to the appeal but we believe that there are too many ethical, technical and procedural blunders that will make our case stronger.’’

Hlongwane noted that there are a number of pointers which Zimbabwe could use to make their appeal stronger.

“In brief the basis of Zimbabwe’s appeal is:

FIFA statutes provide for an appeal mechanism through the appeal committee — which ZIFA did not utilise

The punishment of four years is too drastic considering that the shelf life of players is perishable and four years is half of the shelf life of a player

FIFA statutes provide for deduction of money from amounts due to members and the first payment of $60 000 to Valinhos was such a deduction by FIFA from money due to ZIFA. We do not understand why FIFA could not deduct the balance from all other payments made to ZIFA thus resorting to suspending the whole country from World Cup 2018

Assuming that Valinhos was employed by ZIFA we do not understand how FIFA could suspend Zimbabwe over ZIFA’s dispute with its employee’’.

The minister also questioned the statutes that FIFA used in accepting Valinhos’ appeal against his former employers.

Hlongwane also wants to understand from FIFA whether a failure by a member association to pay a former employee was a violation of the world soccer governing body’s statutes.

“It is not clear which FIFA statutes were used to entertain a third party (Valinhos) against a member of FIFA in this case ZIFA.

“Does the action on Zimbabwe have precedence anywhere else?

‘It is revealing to note that though FIFA provided ZIFA with a more than 12-month window period of opportunity to appeal, ZIFA did not appeal. The question is why?

“Therefore, Zimbabwe through ZIFA would like to make its very first formal appeal to FIFA against suspension,’’ Hlongwane said.

The minister’s bid also comes just days after ZIFA revealed that another World Cup suspension was looming with threats of being kicked out of the 2022 tournament in Qatar a reality.

Zimbabwe will first take its case to COSAFA and then have the regional body’s support ahead of taking the appeal to CAF and then, finally, to FIFA.

A number of eminent football personalities in the country have also been engaged so that they also play their part, thanks to their connections at COSAFA, CAF and FIFA, to try and have the ban lifted.

Apart from Valinhos, ZIFA also owe another former Warriors coach, Tom Saintfiet, $180 00 in unpaid salaries.

Just like Valinhos, Saintfiet successfully appealed through IFGA to have ZIFA pay him for breach of contract after the Belgian worked for just one day of his four- year contract ahead of the 2012 African Nations Cup qualifiers.

In Saintfiet’s case, ZIFA have since been given 120 days by FIFA to pay the Belgian through his lawyers or risk have Zimbabwe suspended from the World Cup in Qatar. Should the appeal that Hlongwane wants to launch fail and should ZIFA fail to clear the Saintfiet debt, it would mean that the Warriors would miss out on two successive World Cup qualifiers.

But the Sport and Recreation Minister, who has hit the ground running since replacing Andrew Langa, wants to address the 2018 World Cup appeal first and ensure the Warriors are back in the elite competition before looking to deal with the next tournament.

Meanwhile, there were fears last night that ZIFA could be kicked out of COSAFA after they failed to pay their affiliation fee, after they promised the regional body odo so by end of day yesterday.

ZIFA promised COSAFA that they would pay their affiliation fee by end of business yesterday.

“There are issues at COSAFA right now because we haven’t paid the organisation as we had promised them and we also owe them from last year and it’s a very tricky situation,” sources said.