FIFA keeps Zimbabwe in suspense

THE FIFA delegation currently in the country to find the way forward over the current football crisis have kept the Zimbabwean enthusiasts guessing as they have not given a hint whether the isolation will be lifted despite a series of meetings with authorities.

The delegation comprising FIFA’s head of development programmes in Africa Solomon Mudege, Gelson Fernandes (FIFA director Member Associations Africa) and COSAFA president Artur de Almedida de Silva, has been in the country since Monday.

Almedida was also representing CAF in the engagements, which included meetings with the Sports and Recreation Commission and the Minister of Youth, Arts, Sport and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry.

Zimbabwe has been suspended from international football since February last year because of administrative challenges that rocked ZIFA, leading to the interventions by the Sports Commission.

The decision by the Sports Commission to suspend the corrupt ZIFA board led by Felton Kamambo, invoked the ire of the world football governing body, which has zero tolerance to third party interference in local football administration.

Efforts to have Zimbabwe’s suspension from international football lifted took a giant leap towards finalisation this week when a series of meetings took place to have the impasse resolved ahead of next week’s draw for the 2026 World Cup.

In fact, this is the second time the FIFA delegation has come to Zimbabwe within three months. As was the case during their initial meeting in April, both FIFA and SRC kept a tight lid on their deliberations.

But sources told The Herald that considerable progress had been made in the discussions with resolutions now being forwarded to the FIFA Council to make a determination on Zimbabwe’s fate.

FIFA are understood to be also keen on finding a lasting solution to the Zimbabwe crisis which has agonisingly dragged on for the last 17 months. FIFA, CAF and COSAFA delegation are understood to be finalising details on ZIFA’s situation ahead of a council meeting expected this week to review the country’s suspension, sources said.

“A statement will be made any time. It could be tomorrow (today) or the day after, we don’t know but they will definitely make a statement, which we all hope will be positive. Should the suspension be lifted it is expected that a Committee would then be immediately put into place to implement a roadmap to the ZIFA reforms.” Critically, it also emerged from the deliberations that Zimbabwe’s anticipated return to the international game will be without ousted ZIFA president Felton Kamambo and his board, whose tenure has since lapsed.

There is also no immediate return for Gift Banda and his executive. Banda has been the acting ZIFA president since April 2022 when the association’s congress recalled the trio of Philemon Machana, Bryton Malandule and Kamambo.

“The discussions have confirmed that Felton Kamambo and the Banda-led Executive will not be part of the interim arrangements at ZIFA.

“FIFA are this time determined to clean the house completely at ZIFA, from grassroots to the executive committee level.

“What was also important from the meeting is that there is alignment, focus and co-operation between FIFA, CAF and the SRC,” added the sources.

If everything goes according to the script, the Warriors are expected to be part of the 2026 World Cup qualifying campaign. There are strong indications that FIFA may lift Zimbabwe’s suspension.

The draw for the World Cup qualifiers, which will precede the 45th CAF Ordinary General Assembly, will be conducted in Cotonou, Benin, next Wednesday. Nine teams from the continent will qualify for the expanded World Cup, an increase of four from the slots that have been traditionally reserved for Africa. FIFA will stage the 2026 edition in three North American countries — Mexico, the United States and Canada.


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