Tadious Manyepo, Harare Bureau
ZIFA yesterday said they were fully behind Uefa president Aleksander Ceferin’s meeting with the Government though they couldn’t be part of the historic occasion since they had not been invited.
The Uefa boss, who is in the country for a private holiday visit with his family since Christmas, on Monday paid a courtesy call to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Sibusiso Moyo.
The 52-year-old Slovenian was accompanied by former Zifa boss and current Cosafa president, Phillip Chiyangwa.
Minister of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, also attended the meeting.
But, it is Zifa, who have been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent days, who were conspicuously absent at the event, raising strong suspicions they might have deliberately snubbed the moment due to the apparent friction with Chiyangwa.
Chiyangwa is the one who facilitated the meeting.
Interestingly, the Zifa secretariat last week wrote a strong-worded letter to him demanding equipment, reportedly donated to Zifa by Fifa before his election defeat in December 2018 to Felton Kamambo.
Zifa’s action was prompted by former vice-president Omega Sibanda who questioned why the association had donated gear which was meant for rural grassroots development to established teams, including those in the top-flight.
And Zifa responded by writing stinging letters to the former administrators.
That tiff, the latest in a long-standing battle between Chiyangwa and the under-pressure Zifa board, was increasingly suspected to be the reason why the former had decided to snub the landmark occasion.
But, it has since emerged that no invitation was extended to Zifa with Chiyangwa yesterday fuming no one had business telling the association of the Uefa boss’ visit.
“The Uefa president (Ceferin) is on a private visit and who was supposed to invite Zifa to that occasion?
“I have no business (of) inviting the association to attend a meeting between the Government and someone on a private visit. I am not the one who hosted the Uefa president. He was hosted by the Government and what role do I have to play in inviting Zifa to a Government event,” said Chiyangwa yesterday.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said the association was in full support of the meeting between the Government and Ceferin and they respected the fact that the Uefa boss’ visit to the country was a private one.
“The Uefa president (Ceferin) was on a private visit in the country. We couldn’t impose ourselves on him when he had not invited us,” said Gwesela.
“But, should he ask to see the Zimbabwe Football Association Board or any individual member of the board, we are more than ready to oblige. But, we cannot in any way impose ourselves since it is a private visit.”
Gwesela said Zifa was thankful that Ceferin chose to visit Zimbabwe out of a host of other African countries.
“But, we have no objections to him meeting Government officials or marketing destination Zimbabwe. In any case, we would like to deeply thank him for choosing to visit Zimbabwe.
“I am very sure he will testify that Zimbabwe has outstanding hospitality to its guests. We feel privileged as Zimbabweans to have such an important guest in our country. That is a sign that we are a good country and we offer good hospitality to visitors.”
Meanwhile, Zifa vice-president Philemon Machana maintained that they would use their protocol to follow up with Uefa and see how best they could tap into the European body’s assistance.
“We will make a follow up with Uefa, we would be happy to do so. We have never shied away from football assistance.
“We will give them our requirements and make those follow ups. So we will follow protocol and procedure but we are grateful that they want to improve our infrastructure and our football,” he said.
Machana says they have everything to gain from Uefa especially after the leader at the helm of such an organisation has expressed deep desire to assist local football.
“We are world apart in terms of football and we can only benefit from them. When there is talk about football development we will always get involved. We are all under Fifa so we are one family,” said Machana.
The Uefa president Ceferin said they have already started rolling out some assistance to African countries as a way of ploughing back to the continent.
“We know very well that African players are playing an important role in European football, so we owe something also to the other parts of the world not just Europe.
“And we are helping (Uefa) and I don’t know if we did something here yet, but l have already spoke to my people and l will connect with Phillip Chiyangwa (Cosafa president), who is well known in European football and I think we can help quite a lot.
“Our principles are that we don’t send money anywhere, we send experts, we help in building infrastructure but we don’t just invest and trust me football wise this is the best organisation, that you can have, not because of me and not since l am here but because football in Europe generates 85 percent of all the football in the world,” said Ceferin.
The Uefa boss observed that Zimbabweans are crazy about football and also noticed that they passionately follow the European league probably more than they do local football.