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 announcement was made without an explanation, which the committee said will be detailed later, but comes after Zimbabwe finished last in their World Cup qualifying group, without winning a match. It is certain to be condemned by FIFA and to attract the threat of a suspension from the governing body of world football, which is rigorously seeking to protect its member federations from government interference.
Usually, governments are forced to back down under the threat of their country being suspended from all football activity. 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 their captain Khama Billiat unexpectedly retired from international football even with the chance to play in the Nations Cup in months .
The Zimbabwe Football Association has experienced a constant 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. The ZIFA also lost several lawsuits to other creditors and suffered the ignominy of the sheriff who took office equipment to sell and repay debts.
They were also forced to use a bus to take their players to Malawi for a qualifying match, covering more than 12 hours on a 600 km journey. ZIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Sports and Recreation Commission is a statutory body with the mandate to regulate and develop sport and recreation in Zimbabwe. (Edited by Shrivathsa Sridhar)
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