Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
THE Warriors’ expulsion from the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, while unfortunate, gives Zimbabwe time to reform the country’s crestfallen football landscape without undue pressure, acting Zifa president Gift Banda said yesterday.
Zimbabwe were booted out of the qualifiers alongside Kenya after failing to get their suspension lifted by Fifa two weeks before the group stages kick-off.
Banda, who was installed as Zifa acting president by Zifa councillors at last month’s extraordinary general meeting, said there is no time to despair for missing out on the continental competition and called on key stakeholders to work together towards restoration of Zimbabwean football.
He said while there might be an outcry from some sections who feel let down by authorities, it is in the best interest of the country to quickly find permanent solutions to problems that haunt the local game.
“In as much as some would have wanted us to participate in the Afcon qualifiers, I feel that now is the time to address the problems we have without rushing.
It’s time for people to clean up domestic football together and pull in one direction as we restructure Zimbabwean football.
The quicker and efficiently we complete the process of restoration of our game, the earlier we will return to international football.
“All we need to do, which I know many will agree with, is to have proper structures and management systems that will take our game forward,” said Banda.
Having clear structures from area zones to the Premier Soccer League will facilitate football development and also ensure that sourced funding reaches its intended recipients.
Organs that have been dormant like beach soccer and five-a-side, which only pop up when it’s election season, also have to be visited and made active.
He said it is pleasing to note that the re-engagement between Fifa and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) has been happening behind the scenes, adding that as the national football motherbody they will continue reaching out to Fifa through their chief executive officer Joseph Mamutse, whose suspension has been lifted.
Banda is confident that Fifa will lift the country’s suspension.
“We’ve been working around the clock behind the scenes as mandated by the congress at last month’s EGM.
Through the engagements with the SRC, we saw the lifting of the CEO’s suspension.
This is an indication we are in the right direction as we continue to bridge differences with key stakeholders, the councillors and Government through the SRC.
We must make sure that football becomes the winner as we pull towards restoring our football and I’ve no doubt that we’ll be back soon,” said Banda.
Now that the association’s president Felton Kamambo, who was recalled by the councillors together with board members Philemon Machana, Bryton Malandule and Stanley Chapeta, have nothing to bargain with since the country has been booted out of the Afcon qualifiers, the Banda-led committee that has Farai Jere, Barbara Chikosi and Sugar Chagonda shouldn’t fall into the trap of doing things without appraising their councillors.
What is critical for Zifa and the SRC is that while the football restructuring process is in motion, the push to get Zimbabwe readmitted to regional, continental and international football continues.
Zifa shouldn’t be pressured for missing out on the Afcon qualifiers as in the five editions that the Warriors have been to the Afcon finals they failed to go beyond the group stages, and have instead become perennial bridesmaids at the continental fete.
During their absence from international football, Zifa should ensure that their scouting systems are in place, with bias directed at young players that will be able to participate in the 2025 Afcon qualifiers.
It will be pleasing to have the next qualifiers played in Zimbabwe, meaning that during the suspension, Zifa also has to reach out to the Government so that the National Sports Stadium is homologated for international games by the time Fifa lifts the suspension.
For the 2023 Afcon qualifiers, Zimbabwe were set to play all their home games outside the country at their own expense since all the local stadiums had been condemned. — @ZililoR