ZIFA Saga: Fans Threaten Protest

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By Newsday

FORMER Caps United administrator Paddington Japajapa has threatened to mobilise football fans to protest against the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) if they do not reinstate the suspended Zifa board.

The SRC on November 16 suspended the Felton Kamambo-led board, after making several allegations, including misappropriation of public funds, accusations that the board refutes.

FIFA has, however, refused to endorse the SRC decision due to lack of evidence, and the world football governing body on Tuesday ordered the sports regulator to reinstate Kamambo and his team.

Fifa has given SRC until January 3 to lift the suspension or the country gets isolated from international football.

Such isolation will see the Warriors being barred from participating at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals which kicks off on January 9 in Cameroon.

Pressure is beginning to mount on the Gerald Mlotshwa’s led SRC board to reverse their decision in the wake of the FIFA rebuttal.

Japajapa, a former Caps United public relations manager, and a former executive member of the National Soccer Supporters Association Zimbabwe says Zimbabweans cannot be deprived of watching their national team at the Afcon because of a “selfish decision” and has warned Mlotshwa to “stop messing with our football.”

“Millions of soccer loving Zimbabweans cannot be prejudiced of their constitutional right to watch their beloved national soccer team playing at the Afcon finals,” said Japajapa who is now the president of a civic society organisation called Zimbabwe Centre for Equal Opportunities (ZCEO).

Fifa has also demanded that the SRC dissolves the nine-member Zifa restructuring committee that they announced last week ostensibly to review the national game.

“As Zimbabweans we cannot allow our beautiful game of soccer to be destroyed by a bunch of misguided SRC board who are using their political connections to ban Zifa board members,” Japajapa warned.

He said the allegations levelled against the ZIFA board are all of a criminal nature, and SRC should have reported the cases to the law enforcement agents and allowed the law to take its course, instead of disbanding the executive committee.

“As ZCEO we are demanding for the immediate revocation of the SRC banishment order imposed on the Felton Kamambo led executive, and the immediate reinstatement of the Board to their previous status quo. We cannot allow ourselves to be abused and taken advantage of by Gerald Mlotshwa because of his connections with the First Family.

“Failure to lift the illegal and unlawful ban of the Zifa board by the rag tag misguided bunch at SRC means we shall be left with no option.

“As Zimbabweans who want to see our national soccer team participating at AFCON finals, we shall apply for permission under Maintenance of Public Order Act for permission to demonstrate against those SRC board members so that they can resign and leave office.

“Most of the misguided SRC Board members have never played soccer from since childhood hence they know nothing about football administration.”

SRC is yet to respond to Fifa’s ultimatum, but when suspending the Zifa executive committee last month, Mlotshwa said he was fully aware of the consequences.

Here is what Zimbabwe football would lose if Fifa were to ban the country:

Zimbabwe will be unable to participate in international matches organised by Fifa and CAF. That means the Warriors will be disqualified from next year’s Afcon finals.

The Mighty Warriors who are a tie away against Botswana from qualifying to the Women’s Afcon finals will also be disqualified. The matches will be played in February.

Local clubs will not play in the Caf Champions League and the Confederations Cup.

There won’t be any international transfers, which means Zimbabwean players playing in the local league cannot move abroad.

Foreign based players will still be able to renew contracts but cannot move to another country when their contract expires.

Fifa sanctions would also see the world governing body closing financial tapes on Zimbabwe which has been the heartbeat of Zifa and local football.

Local referees will also be barred from taking part in international assignments and participating in seminars organised by the body, and CAF.

The country will lack representation in regional and international conventions and no Zimbabwean will be eligible to contest for any post in Fifa and CAF or its affiliated bodies like Cosafa.

The country could also lose out on a Fifa funded stadium that the organisation intends to build in each African country.

Under its Project African Football, the world governing body last year announced plans to make solid and sustainable infrastructural investments in Africa, worth $1bn dollars.

“We are elaborating a proposal to mobilise US$1 billion to build at least one top stadium in the countries of each of Fifa and CAF’s 54-member associations,” Fifa president Gianni Infantino said during a seminar, held in Morocco last year and attended by delegates from each of CAF’s 54-member associations.

“In the countries where there is already at least one very good stadium, the investments can be done in other infrastructures.”

Fifa said it had already mobilised the funds and the project is scheduled to start next year with countries such as Zimbabwe, which do not have a stadium that meet international standards, set to be given a priority.

The National Sports Stadium, the only stadium in the country that was hosting international football matches, has since been banned until it has been renovated to meet minimum standards required by CAF.

SRC, which is in charge of the stadium, has failed to install bucket seats and electronic turnstiles, and also setting up a Venue Operations Centre.

The media centre that they set up at the stadium is substandard.

Zimbabwe has previously lost opportunities to build infrastructure funded by Fifa under its Fifa goal project initiative.

The Fifa goal project is an initiative by Fifa to assist countries around the world to construct their very own “House of Football” and technical facilities for the development and continued progress of football activities.

While Zifa managed to build the Zifa Village under the initiative, it missed five other opportunities of similar magnitude as the association was not in good standing with Fifa.

The two organisations were beginning to find each other and Fifa recently helped Zifa to acquire two conventional busses for use by national teams.

Other countries on the continent, for example, South Africa have maximised on the Goal Project opportunity and built the Safa headquarters, a restaurant, 52 football turfs one in each Safa region, complete with club houses with changing rooms, ablution facilities, perimeter fencing and training lights.

Safa also owns the Fun Valley Project — a resort bought and turned into a world-class technical centre using Fifa resources.