Warriors kicked out of CHAN OUT IN THE COLD . . . These locally-based players, (from left) Ariel Sibanda, Nqobizitha Masuku, Peter Muduhwa, Tichaona Chipunza and Devon Chafa, are not going to have another chance to play in the Zimbabwe senior national football team colours after the country was kicked out of this year’s COSAFA and CHAN tournaments.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

ZIFA have insisted that there is no need to rush the nation back to international football as systems are being put in place to ensure Zimbabwe returns stronger from the FIFA suspension. 

The Warriors, who recently were kicked out of the 2023 AFCON qualifying tournament, were this week disqualified from the upcoming CHAN qualifiers where they had been drawn to face Malawi. 

The Confederation of African Football had included them in both qualifiers on condition that they get the FIFA suspension lifted two weeks before the opening matches. The first round, first leg matches of the CHAN qualifiers have been pencilled in between July 22 and 24. 

However, responsible authorities have indicated that local football administration needed greater attention and they have since embarked on a restructuring process fronted by the Sports and Recreation Commission. 

CAF on Tuesday confirmed that the Flames of Malawi were through to the second round of the 2022 CHAN qualifiers without kicking a ball following Zimbabwe’s decision. The Football Association of Malawi received a letter from CAF confirming the development. 

“We are referring to the suspension of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) by FIFA Congress from all football activities. 

“Unfortunately, the association of Zimbabwe did not fulfil the criteria set by FIFA Congress and is still under suspension. 

“Therefore, we hereby confirm to you that the clause indicated in the draw procedures is applied: In case the suspension of Zimbabwe FA is not lifted 2 weeks before its first match, it will be considered loser and eliminated from the competition. 

“Consequently, all the matches of Zimbabwe in the frame of the 1st round of the qualifiers of CHAN 2022 are now cancelled and consequently Malawi is qualified to the 2nd round of the qualifiers,” read the letter from CAF to FAM. The Flames will now wait for the winner between Zambia and Mozambique in the second round of the CHAN qualifiers. 

For Zimbabwe, this the third time in two months that the country has been disqualified from an international competition due to the FIFA suspension. 

The Warriors, who last competed at the delayed 2021 AFCON finals held in Cameroon in February this year, have been sidelined from the 2023 AFCON qualifiers and the COSAFA Cup, which is currently taking place in South Africa. Interim ZIFA president, Gift Banda, said the nation should not be worried by missing these tournaments since long-term solutions are being worked out to solve the crisis in Zimbabwean football. Before the FIFA suspension, local football had been run down by corruption and inept leadership, leading to the intervention of the Sports Commission. 

Banda, who was elevated to the position of acting ZIFA president by the association’s Congress in April following the recalling of Felton Kamambo and two other board members, said the nation needed to be patient as strong systems are being put in place.  

ZIFA have since started communicating with FIFA with hopes for a quick reinstatement. 

“We can’t really put time frames because it’s not in our hands but we are expressing to the powers that be that we are doing all our things according to the constitution and, now that we have opened the avenues of communication (with FIFA) that were not there before, we are upbeat. 

“We want to holistically come up with a framework that’s going to work for Zimbabwean football. I always ask people that if FIFA were to say the ban is lifted today, are we ready to play? It’s a question that I normally pose to many people and the nation at large. I don’t think we are (ready). 

“There are a lot of things that we need to do to our football before we can say we are now ready to go back and play international football. We have got to work at our constitution, there are quite a lot of things,” said Banda. 

The Bulawayo businessman said apart from the constitutional issues, pillars for development and a blueprint for future national success were key. 

“I was also saying if the ban is lifted tomorrow, are we going to play at the National Sports Stadium? No. 

“We need to see how best we can put more monies together; how best we can do in order to have our stadiums ready for us to play international football competitively. 

“Recently we were talking about national football philosophy, which the technical director is busy at work with his committee, so that at the end of the day, when we start we are starting afresh. 

“I can talk about a lot of other things that we are looking forward to. You know, when Zimbabwe was at the best of its footballing powers, we used to have what we used to call the provincial Under-18s which produced the likes of Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, Moses Chunga, Vitalis Takawira and many others. 

“Where is that today? It’s not there. So we would like to go back there so that we have a pool for our junior development.” 

Banda said the ball was in ZIFA’s court. But the national association needs to get their house in order first by attending to all the footballing ills that had been normalised over time.

“So the time-frame (for FIFA reinstatement) is neither here nor there; getting ourselves ready, doing the right football decisions and appointing the right national team coaches; because what we normally do when we have Under-17 competition for the national team is we go and pick coaches who do not spend time with the youngsters and that are more concerned about results than development. 

“I had a meeting with the Harare junior league and they were talking about coaches who are using what they call “ninjas,” that is the over-aged players, because these guys are more results-oriented than developmental. 

“We need to have short and long-term plans. Right now we are rudderless. If we just wake up and say we want to play international football when we are rudderless, are we going to produce results? The answer is no.

“So it’s not about the time-frame about the lifting of the suspension; it’s about getting our house in order holistically so that when we return to international football we are going to do the right things,” said Banda.

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