Petros Kausiyo-Sunday Mail Sports Editor
WORLD soccer governing body FIFA have stepped up their re-engagement with the Sport and Recreation Commission over Zimbabwe’s suspension from the game’s international family amid revelations a series of closed door meetings are being held to find solutions on the impasse between the parties.
Another key meeting, which had been pencilled for yesterday between the Zurich-based body and the Sports Commission, has now been pushed to tomorrow.
The Herald can also reveal that as part of parallel on-going engagement between the Sports Commission and ZIFA, the sport regulatory body has lifted the suspension of the association’s chief executive,
Mamutse, who last week lost his appeal against the Commission’s suspension at the Administrative Court, is expected to resume duties at ZIFA headquarters at 53 Livingstone Avenue in Harare today.
Despite the positive re-engagement between the SRC and FIFA, the latest having been initiated by the world body, there is no immediate respite for the Warriors, who would have to make do with missing the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers while the domestic football reform process is being undertaken.
It is understood that Zimbabwe, just like Kenya have opted to address the fundamentals related to the perennial problems that have been haunting local football, without being distracted by national teams’ assignments.
The Warriors, who are even without a home ground and a coach, were due to begin their 2023 Nations Cup qualifying campaign on June 9 with a tie against Liberia.
They would have played Liberia outside Zimbabwe and then face South Africa’s Bafana Bafana in Johannesburg four days later.
The participation of the Warriors, who together with Kenya’s Harambee Stars were suspended by FIFA, had always hung in the balance.
Both teams were included in last month’s CAF draw on the premise that they might have their global bans, imposed by FIFA, lifted.
However, just like in Kenya, there has been no movement over the past few weeks towards having the suspensions lifted two weeks before their first matches.
CAF indicated that the two teams would be kicked out of the competition should they fail to have their global bans lifted a fortnight before the qualifiers begin.
And, that two-week window for the Warriors, would have elapsed by the time the on-going re-engagement meetings between SRC and FIFA are concluded.
Although he was not at liberty to discuss much before the latest of their round of meetings with FIFA is concluded, Sports Commission chairman Gerald Mlotshwa yesterday confirmed that talks were in progress.
“Yes, it is true that FIFA has reached out and we were supposed to have a meeting today (yesterday) but that has been moved to later in the week possibly Wednesday or Thursday afternoon.
“FIFA and SRC have been in constant touch in the last few months so these discussions are on-going,’’ Mlotshwa said.
It is understood FIFA have been keen to know how much ground has been covered on the processes that have been put in place to reform the troubled Zimbabwe game.
Mlotshwa also hinted on the bid by the ZIFA Assembly to have the suspension on their board lifted, following the April 23 extraordinary general meeting at which the mandates of Felton Kamambo (president) and board members Philemon Machana (finance) and Bryton Malandule (development) were lifted.
In re-calling the trio of Kamambo, Machana and Malandule, the ZIFA councillors resolved to retain the rest of the board, which includes vice-president Gift Banda, Sugar Chagonda, Women’s Soccer League boss Barbra Chikosi and Premier Soccer League chairman Farai Jere.
“The ball is in FIFA’s court to recognise the EGM in order that SRC lifts the suspension of the ZIFA board if they have to and the SRC will be guided by the feedback from the ZIFA Congress’’.
Sources at ZIFA told The Herald yesterday that Mamutse, as head of secretariat, will be immediately seized with communicating with FIFA on the outcomes of the April 23 EGM.
It has also emerged that, should they be reinstated, it would then be the ZIFA board that would have to conduct an internal inquiry on the allegations that led to Mamutse’s suspension by the Sports Commission.
Mamutse was suspended together with Sports Commission director-general Prince Mupazviriho last year.
The duo’s suspensions were effected to pave the way for a probe into how they allegedly cleared a number of national teams, clandestinely, for assignments outside the country, without following Covid-19 protocols. Mamutse also faced charges related to the manner in which Zimbabwe was left embarrassed after the national Under-17 side were kicked out of the COSAFA tournament for age-cheating.
He unsuccessfully challenged his suspension in the Administrative court with his case being struck off the roll on May 13, with costs.
But it is the easing of FIFA’s seemingly hard line stance against the SRC that has also given hope that efforts to reform to Zimbabwe’s football will flow without much tension between these two key pillars in the saga.
Both CAF president Patrice Motsepe and new COSAFA boss Artur del Almeida have recently urged dialogue and better working relationships between football associations and their governments.
Motsepe underscored to delegates at the COSAFA elective assembly in Windhoek, Namibia, the need for football bodies to work closely with governments to grow the game.
“You can’t separate football and the economic growth of our countries. I am confident (for the future).
“We are about football. In Eswatini, Lesotho, in every country, part of what we must do is make sure we get more funding. Where government works together with our football leaders, we make progress,’’ Motsepe said.
De Almeida also added his voice.
“We need to bring all countries of COSAFA next to each other and next to their governments to help build infrastructure and help the federations. We must connect our members,” Artur de Almeida said.
“In our region, we have so many conflicts in the federations. One idea is to have each of the seven members of the COSAFA Executive Committee assist two countries. To help them, maybe they visit the countries two of three times a year to meet the federation to know things are going and what assistance they need.
“If there are some conflicts, COSAFA can be the first one to go and fix the problem before CAF or FIFA. For that, we must come next to our members,” he said.