Soccer-Zimbabwe football association board suspended by government

Band Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN, November 16 (Reuters)Zimbabwe’s participation in the finals of the African Cup of Nations next January was compromised on Tuesday, as the country’s sports and recreation commission suspended the board of directors of the football association (ZIFA).

The commission said it acted “following several cases of gross incompetence on the part of the ZIFA”, including allegations of sexual harassment of female referees and allegations of fraud.

The announcement comes after Zimbabwe finished last in their World Cup qualifying group, failing to win a match.

The move will certainly be condemned by FIFA and carry the threat of a suspension of world football’s governing body, which rigorously seeks to protect member associations from government interference.

Usually, governments are forced to back down under the threat of their country being suspended from all football activity.

The SRC, a statutory body mandated to regulate and develop sport and recreation in Zimbabwe, said it had received a report of alleged sexual harassment of female referees by ZIFA technical staff.

“Despite several requests for the case to be dealt with decisively, ZIFA did not pay sufficient attention to the case given its seriousness,” the statement said.

“While the nation has made significant strides in enabling girls to actively participate in sports, cases of sexual harassment need to be addressed conclusively to enable an environment conducive to participation for all. “

He also detailed other “non-exhaustive” reasons, including alleged mismanagement and lack of accountability in the use of public funds.

Reasons given also included sending national teams out of Zimbabwe without COVID-19 clearances and the inability to invest in grassroots football from the FIFA development fund.

Zimbabwe were held to a 1-1 draw by Ethiopia in their final World Cup qualifying game on Sunday at home in Harare after a late equalizer. Their form in the campaign contrasted with that at the start of the year, when they had comfortably qualified for the Nations Cup finals.

In the World Cup qualifiers they sacked their Croatian coach Zdravko Logarusic, while on Monday captain Khama Billiat unexpectedly withdrew from international football even with the chance to play in the Nations Cup in months .

The Zimbabwe Football Association has experienced a cash flow crisis over the years and the team were kicked out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers after failing to pay an unpaid debt to former coach Jose “Valinhos” Claudinei despite a grace period granted by FIFA.

ZIFA told Reuters it had no comments ready yet.

(Edited by Shrivathsa Sridhar)

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