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Zimbabwe playing Russian roulette with FIFA suspension

An array of football players are on the verge of moving to new clubs but in the absence of an international clearance, they could become casualties of a Sport and Recreation Commission’s potentially lethal game of chance in dealing with a FIFA suspension.

The net effect of the suspension is that ZIFA congress is powerless until the remedies prescribed by FIFA are instituted.

However, the lawyers, at the SRC have made their own reading of FIFA’s suspension.

They have since used muscle to push for a ZIFA Extraordinary Congress in April to revoke the mandate of ZIFA President Felton Kamambo and board member Philemon Machana.

They intend to keep the mandate of a rival faction within the board of Farai Jere and Sugar Chagonda, who will then be reinstated as the official ZIFA board.

It remains to be seen if the outcome of that plan will hold water given the World football’s ruling body has said Zimbabwe will remain suspended until entire ZIFA board is reinstated.

An outside scenario in this chaos is that FIFA will install a normalisation committee as was the case in Cameroon and Ghana when those nations fell foul of FIFA rules.

FIFA will likely chair this committee with half of its members seconded by the SRC. This scenario may only be possible after back and forth consultations between FIFA and the state-run institutions which could take months.

While all these possibilities are on the table, football players and fans are living the stark reality that no Zimbabwean team – including club sides vying for Confederation of African Football (CAF) tournaments – can play internationally.

No one at ZIFA nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from FIFA and/or CAF.

In response the SRC board chairman Gerald Mlotshwa insists that there is no going back. In his reasoning, the SRC will not negotiate with corrupt individuals.

No court of law has convicted Felton Kamambo and his board but the presumption of innocent until proven guilty has since been lost on the country’s sport regulatory body.

Some say its a personal vendetta, drawn from a personal battle between Mlotshwa and Machana.

Be that as it may, a ZIFA Restructuring Committee has begun conversing with stakeholders to understand the extent of problems besieging Zimbabwe football and the way forward.

True, it’s akin to starting an investigation after making an arrest.

The ZIFA Restructuring Committee will be place until December 2022, a role which is more of a fact finding mission.

How they now choose to approach stakeholders after already making decisions beggars belief.

It is from this point of view that Members of Parliament last week implored the SRC to reinstate the suspended Zifa board to save careers of footballers, who are being affected by the suspension.

Among the lone voices that has also urged the country’s sports regulatory board as well as the suspended ZIFA board to reach a consensus and settle their differences in order to save Zimbabwean football is former Warriors skipper Benjani Mwaruwari.

Besides the lone voice it has been a silent sea from concerned stakeholders who appear to fear victimisation if they speak out.

The Footballer’s Union of Zimbabwe, who represent the concerns of football players, have been dead silent on the matter.

FC Platinum who are vying to play in the Champions League, have carried on as though its business as usual, also apparently afraid to poke the bear head on.

Premier Soccer League clubs have continued to play, week in and week out, players putting their bodies on the line for results that are not recognised by FIFA.

It’s as is if Zimbabwean football stakeholders have become bewitched.

Strikingly, impeccable sources have revealed that members within the ZIFA board say they understand the magnanimity of fight a government that no longer wants them to stay.

All they request is a dignified exit. An exit that will allow them to run their term of office before surrendering to the next office bearers.

Agreed, the ZIFA board are not saints, but authorities who caused Government interference leading to this FIFA suspension are equally guilty of bringing Zimbabwe sport to its knees.

For the first time since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe does not have a stadium that is certified by CAF to host international football.

What is beyond doubt is that the authorities using force of law to make Zimbabwe reel under more sanctions will have this episode hanging over their heads for decades to come.

At the end of the day, no matter how fiery a war, opponents will call for a ceasefire but by then livelihoods would have been lost.