Hope Chizuzu Sports Correspondent
ZIFA chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze, is at the centre of a dramatic fallout with Fifa, after questioning the credibility of the world football governing body, as the domestic game’s leadership buckles under the weight exerted by Asiagate’s sensational collapse. Ironically, the fallout comes at a time when Zifa’s leaders have been parading their “healthy” relationship with the Zurich-based organisation, showcased by Fifa’s funding of the new-look Zifa Village, which was unveiled to the game’s stakeholders on Wednesday.
While Ndumiso Gumede, the Zifa vice-president, told guests who toured the Zifa Village complex that the time had come to end Asiagate’s long-running drama, after Fifa rejected to endorse the sanctions they meted on scores of individuals, Mashingaidze has been fighting a lonely and feisty boardroom battle to try and drag the case on.
The Zifa chief executive has since taken his battle into the Fifa boardroom by questioning the credibility of the world football governing body, in a bold but risky move, which could cripple relations between the two organisations.
Mashingaidze has questioned Fifa’s impartiality in this case, suggesting that the Zurich-based organisation was allegedly taking sides with those accused by the association of being involved in match-fixing, in the wake of the decision not to endorse the sanctions.
He also vented his fury on Fifa for allegedly leaking confidential correspondence, related to the Asiagate case, to The Herald, a charge that the leadership of the world football governing body vehemently denied.
Last week, Mashingaidze wrote to the Chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, Claudio Sulser, in response to a letter from Zurich advising him that the sanctions would not be endorsed because of a combination of procedural flaws, in the way Zifa handled the case, and lack of evidence to support an endorsement of their sanctions.
Mashingaidze appears unhappy that this newspaper has published material, including Fifa’s landmark decision to reject the endorsement of the sanctions, which he wanted to be kept under wraps even though the position had a bearing on the future of scores of footballers and officials.
“By copy of this letter, Zifa registers its displeasure at the leaking of information pertaining to the Asiagate scandal to members of the media and media houses,” Mashingaidze wrote in his letter.
“The information, which is of a confidential nature, has been published in the media.
“In fact, the recent communication from your office, which should have only been communicated to us as Zifa, was also leaked to The Herald, and in particular, a journalist who was involved in the Asiagate scandal, Hope Chizuzu.
“We find the conduct very unethical as we now do not know on which side are you in this case.”
By accusing Fifa of not only allegedly leaking the correspondence to The Herald but questioning their ethics, in the way they have handled the issue, Mashingaidze clearly put himself on a collision course with the Zurich-based organisation.
Such has been Mashingaidze’s obsession, to keep everything that doesn’t further Zifa’s cause in this case under wraps, he even asked Fifa, in the same correspondence, to “ . . . in future, desist from giving interviews pertaining to the case to any members of the media as such information is private and confidential.”
Fifa, in their response, denied leaking any correspondence, related to this case, to The Herald and reiterated that they only communicated with Zifa, through Mashingaidze’s e-mail addresses.
“We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 4 February 2014, the contents of which has been duly noted. In this regard, we wish to make the following clarifications,” a letter from Fifa, received by Zifa last Friday, read.
“First of all, we would like to state that our previous letter dated January 30, 2014 as well as one dated November 25, 2013, referring to the sanctions imposed by Zimbabwe Football Association on players and officials in relation to match fixing, and Asiagate scandal was communicated to your association by e-mail only to the following addresses; email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> and email@example.com <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>,” wrote Marco Villiger, the Director of Legal Affairs.
“Secondly, we hereby stress that no one from the Fifa secretariat of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee leaked or disclosed any information on the above mentioned subject to the media, and, in particular, to The Herald publication or to Mr Hope Chizuzu.”
The Herald is in possession of the latest correspondence from Fifa to Zifa, which confirms that Mashingaidze’s spirited efforts to try and cut us from the lines of communication, have failed dismally.
But the Zifa chief executive appears to have a bigger problem to deal with, which could be a product of the lack of diplomacy in the way he has managed his relationship with Fifa, with the world football governing body, once again, rejecting his calls for an emergency meeting to discuss Asiagate.
Mashingaidze has been angling for a meeting with Fifa, preferably this month or just before the start of the domestic season, to discuss the world football governing body’s decision to reject an endorsement of Zifa’s sanctions on scores of individuals which, effectively, brought to an end the long-running case.
Sources have indicated that Zifa want to get guarantees from Fifa that there won’t be a backlash from those whom the association fingered in the scandal, in terms of litigation, and want the world football governing body to provide the insulation against the possibility of such action.
But Fifa, whose hardline stance also appears have stemmed from the frosty relationship that has developed in the wake of Mashingaidze’s lack of diplomacy and, crucially, his decision to question their credibility, have reiterated that they don’t see the value of such a meeting, especially against a background where Zifa have failed to provide fresh evidence to back their case.
“Furthermore, with respect to the meeting requested between your association and Fifa, we kindly remind you that, as mentioned in our previous letter, the Chairman of the Fifa Disciplinary Committee will consider the opportunity to hold such a meeting ONLY upon receipt and evaluation of any new documents and evidence in relation with the request for sanctions to the extended (cf art.137 of the Fifa Disciplinary Code) which would justify the holding of such meeting,” wrote Villiger. Interestingly, two players, Method Mwanjali and Thomas Sweswe, who appealed against their bans and paid US$6 000 each with Zifa in December 2012, haven’t been advised of the decisions of the Appeals Committee which met last year. Reports indicate that the three-man Appeals Committee is holding on to their judgment until Zifa have addressed the issue of payments, which should be made for their services, and this has kept the players in limbo despite the duo having satisfied their part by paying the US$6 000 appeal fees. That people who appealed in December 2012 are yet to get their verdicts also paints a sorry picture of a process that appears to have lost its way.
Sweswe and Mwanjali, though, have remained untouched by the Zifa bans since they ply their trade in South Africa, where they could only have been sanctioned if Fifa had endorsed the bans, but the duo are desperate to have their names cleared.