Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
JUST days after FIFA said Zimbabwe football faces a bleak future and could disappear from the international radar, the Warriors’ absence from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, which get underway this coming weekend, is likely to support those fears.
The Warriors will miss the World Cup show, for the first time since Zimbabwe attained Independence, after the country was expelled from the 2018 global football showcase when ZIFA failed to pay a debt owed to Brazilian coach Valinhos.
The gaffer was in charge of the Warriors during their failed 2010 World Cup qualifiers and claims that he is owed a debt that has ballooned to more than $80 000, when his lawyers’ fees are taken into account, after ZIFA failed to service it in the last six years.
The Association’s leaders were repeatedly warned by FIFA that they needed to service the debt, or risk possible expulsion from the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, but the warnings were ignored and the Warriors were this year booted out of the competition.
FIFA member associations head, Primo Corvaro, painted a bleak future of Zimbabwe football saying that ZIFA were not going to get any financial assistance from the world football governing body after failing to provide them with audited statements.
Corvaro, who also said there was no chance for Zimbabwe to be brought back into the 2018 World Cup qualifiers, said there was even a possibility that the Warriors could be banned from the 2022 tournament should the country fail to settle a debt owed to Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet who is now in charge of Togo.
“Whoever is going to take over has to be strong. Zimbabwe will not be getting any financial assistance from FIFA and I can foresee football disappearing soon if you are not careful,” he said.
“It’s good you still have the domestic league which still has got a few sponsors.
“The reason why you guys will not be getting funds is simple — your association has for the past years failed to provide to FIFA yearly audited reports and for such a case, we cannot continue giving you money.
“The new leadership has to quickly pay auditors so they can release the yearly reports, as well as settling some of your important debts which might affect your progress as a nation.”
Last week, Sport and Recreation Minister, Makhosini Hlongwane, launched an audacious bid to have the ban lifted and said he will seek the support of COSAFA and CAF in their efforts to get FIFA to reinstate the Warriors into the 2018 World Cup.
Hlongwane criticised the ZIFA board, whose mandate to lead domestic football was revoked by the councillors at a watershed meeting in Harare on Saturday, which drew the attendance of FIFA and CAF representatives, for being complicit in Zimbabwe’s ban from the 2018 World Cup ban.
The minister said he was disappointed to note that the ZIFA leadership did not appeal against the decision to have the country kicked out of the 2018 World Cup even though chances were high that such an appeal was likely to succeed.
The councillors, who described the ZIFA board as a “dysfunctional” unit, also said their failure to get FIFA to reinstate Zimbabwe in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers was one of the reasons they were no longer fit to lead the domestic football family.
“The board has failed to work together as a team leading to a number of squabbles between the members,” the councillors said in their charge sheet.
“Suspension of board members has been the order of the day at the expense of important ZIFA business. This has led to bad publicity thereby bringing the game of football into disrepute.
“The board has failed to pay $81 000 owed to Valinhos for the past six years despite several warnings from FIFA and threats of a possible ban.
“The board lied to congress when they made the whole nation believe that the association was engaged in task with the coach’s lawyers and FIFA and that the debt will be paid to allow Zimbabwe to take part in the World Cup.
“The board decided to use the money paid by the Premier Soccer League to pay the Valinhos debt on paying Pandhari debt because the president wanted to recover his attached property.
“The (former ZIFA) president (Cuthbert Dube)and his board showed no remorse when they told the congress that ‘participation of the Warriors in the 2018 World Cup was not important than the president’s attached property.’ The statement showed an irresponsible board which is not fit to continue running the office.
“The board continued to enter national teams in less glamorous competitions without a budget for such matches. This led to the board failing to adequately prepare for the games and also failing to raise money for national teams.
“The Malawi game preparations were an embarrassment to the association and the nation at large. As this was not enough, your board failed to send the Mighty Warriors to Ivory Coast.
“The board has failed to take care of the welfare of our players in all categories resulting in a number of boycotts of camp and training by the players. All these actions received a lot of negative reports from the press thereby bringing the game of football into disrepute.”
Now, at the weekend, the 2018 World Cup bandwagon gets underway and countries like Somalia and South Sudan will be in action while the Warriors will be missing from the battles.
The Warriors, had they not been expelled, would have been playing this coming weekend in the knockout games.
But Callisto Pasuwa and his men will not be in action as they pay for the sins of their football leaders.