‘We do not want FIFA to lift suspension…’ says under fire Minister Coventry as supporters plot protest

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By Darlington Gatsi

UNDER FIRE Minister of sports, Kirsty Coventry says it is too soon for FIFA to lift suspension imposed on Zimbabwe as the Sports and Recreation Commission is ‘cleansing’ local football.

Zimbabwe was slapped with a suspension by the football mother body last year for third party interference.

This was after the government through SRC suspended Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) board in 2021 citing embezzlement of funds and sexual harassment of female referees.

The suspension resulted in Zimbabwe national teams being iced from FIFA sanctioned events and temporarily blacklisted from receiving funds meant for football development.

Appearing before Parliament Wednesday Coventry said a plethora of reasons on why SRC suspended the ZIFA board are yet to be addressed.

“For clarity, the reasons that the SRC stepped in and suspended the (ZIFA) board were three main reasons. The first was that the government had given ZIFA about US$2m that has never been accounted for.

“It wasn’t FIFA money but Zimbabwean money that parliamentarians should want to know where it has gone because it was never accounted for. Secondly, the sexual harassment of female referees. Four women have come forward; they have given their statement to the police and there have been investigations.

“Three of those (accused) members were on the ZIFA board. One of the officials has already received a lifetime (five-year) ban from FIFA, from their own investigations, with a 20 000 Swiss francs fine.

“So FIFA are now investigating the second member that was on the board that was sexually abusing and harassing these women. FIFA knew that this was happening in 2018-19 when these women filed an appeal with FIFA and got no response.

“They then came to the Government. The SRC and Government, my office, worked together with these women to ensure that police reports were done and statements were made. We then went back to FIFA and CAF. We requested for them to step in,” said Coventry.

“They refused. We then stepped in and suspended the executive for the things that I have just shared with the Members of Parliament. As you know, FIFA then stepped in and suspended us from international soccer. We accepted that and we never asked for them to lift it.

“We don’t want them to lift it at this point until we have cleared and cleaned up our soccer. We are not doing as other members may say, ‘a disservice. A disservice to who? The corrupt? “The Ministry and SRC will stand together with these women, along with (the fight against) the corruption that has been going on, for as long as it takes

“Those are the steps we have laid out. The process now is the ZIFA executive have given their roadmap and the points that they want clarified and cleaned up. They will work with the SRC and they will give those reports to CAF and FIFA and we will then go from when we get those responses.”

Coventry and SRC have been under pressure from football supporters to reinstate the ZIFA board led by Felton Kamambo for FIFA suspension to be lifted.

Zimbabwe National Supporters Association is set to stage protests at the SRC offices next week as they register ther displeasure over the state of football.

Coventry further said they are supporting the SRC stance and processes it embarked on since the FIFA suspension.

“We are fully supporting the Sports and Recreation Commission in every step they have taken. The Ministry is fully funding the executive and the staff of ZIFA House so that they can run as normal.

“We have been financing them since the suspension and we will continue to do that; that is the role of the Ministry. The role of the Sports and Recreation Commission is to work with ZIFA to find a way forward. They are doing that and once they have agreed on that, they will take that to CAF and FIFA and we should see a result,” she said.