Zimbabwe: FIFA’s Hypocrisy Deplorable

The suspension of Zimbabwe from international football activities by FIFA came as sad news for all the football-loving Zimbabweans.

The decision taken by the FIFA Council has stirred mixed feelings among Zimbabweans.

To some it's a blessing in disguise, which will give the authorities time to fix problems bedevilling the game, while others have chosen to take it in a negative light.

The downside of the move is that it means no representative Zimbabwean team can feature in international football, even in the CAF inter-club tournaments, while FIFA will also withhold all funding to this country.

FIFA said neither ZIFA nor any of its members or officials may benefit from any development programmes, courses or training from FIFA and/or CAF during the period of suspension.

It's all bad for football.

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It's unfortunate that FIFA had to act in this way in response to the protracted impasse between the Sports and Recreation Commission and ZIFA.

But sometimes you would think the suspension is worth it when one looks at the bigger challenges in domestic football, which led us to where we are today.

The Sports Commission had to step in to stop the rot after the ZIFA administration had practically brought the game to its knees.

Successive association football leadership in the country has destroyed the game. ZIFA's problems are deep-rooted and it needed intervention to save the game from total collapse.

There have been reports of massive looting of funds, maladministration, bribery, vote-buying during election time and, lately the sexual harassment of female referees.

The worst part is that the administration tried to sweep under the carpet allegations of such serious nature.

Zimbabwe have been in general decline as a football country in the last few years. From being ranked number 40 at the peak of the country's footballing powers in the 1990s, the senior men's football team has plummeted to shocking levels and are now ranked number 122 in the world.

Our local teams are finding it difficult to match their peers in the region during the CAF inter-club competitions, which is a reflection of the falling standards.

There is no deliberate development programme in place and the future looks bleak for both the men's and women's game. Even our local officials have lagged behind and cannot be considered for serious competitions like the AFCON tournament, Olympics and the World Cup.

In comparison, neighbours Zambia, South Africa and Botswana have had to send match officials at some of these tournaments.

All we have seen over the years is chaos emanating from the boardroom, corruption and looting going on unchecked. ZIFA have contributed nothing to the development of infrastructure, apart from the botched project at ZIFA Village funded by FIFA, which is below standard.

Of late, the suspended ZIFA board, led by Felton Kamambo, has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

Some of these administrators are facing charges of sexual harassment, bribery, fraud and general corruption before Zimbabwe's Courts. FIFA has the full details of these matters.

But what did they do about it? Nothing.

Only to wake up announcing that ZIFA's membership has been suspended and can only be reinstated after the withdrawal from the courts of the fraud cases against the members of the suspended board and their reinstatement into office.

They dismissed the charges against the suspended ZIFA board members as "mere allegations" despite the serious nature and not notwithstanding their "zero tolerance policy towards corruption, sexual abuse and any other unethical conduct."

In fact, what FIFA are saying as part of conditions for reinstatement is that the country's laws which govern ZIFA and its leadership, as well as any other person or entity in this country, should be set aside in favour of suspected fraudsters and alleged sex perverts. But Zimbabwe cannot lose its sovereignty over a mere football issue.

If they have no case to answer, let the courts decide. Why is FIFA trying to protect them when justice is taking its natural course?

When it comes to issues of accountability, why is FIFA quick to say they are against "undue interference by a third party" but then regard the same as stakeholders when they want Government grants and the buy-in from the corporate world to assist in tournaments and development of the game?

The hypocrisy is deplorable. Zimbabwe authorities should not budge to the bully tactics and take the opportunity to put in place structures so that the game will return stronger.

Artmotion S.Africa

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