While other teams are already making preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals, a dark cloud is hanging over Zimbabwe’s participation at the continental spectacle.
African stars will descend on Cameroonian soil for the 33rd edition of the continental spectacle, which roars into life on January 9.
Malawi, the Warriors’s opponents in Group B, recently hired a Romanian coach to oversee The Flames in Cameroon, a sign that they don’t want to be at African football’s greatest extravaganza just to add up numbers.
The Warriors’ preparations for the finals, their third in a row, have been marred by the on-going fight between ZIFA and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC).
The sports regulatory body in the country suspended the Felton Kamambo-led board on November 16, citing several violations, chief among them failure to account for public funds.
ZIFA responded by appealing at the Administrative Court and informed football stakeholders in the country that they had ‘resumed duties’ pending the hearing, a move which was immediately quashed by the SRC.
With very little options after that, the Kamambo adminstration conceded defeat ‘took a back sit.’
“The ZIFA Board wishes to inform the nation that, following the lodging of its appeal with the
Administrative Court which by operation of law suspended the SRC decision to suspend
permanently (dismiss) the ZIFA Board and the subsequent resumption of duty by the Board as
shared in our previous press statement of 3 December 2021, the SRC has since directed that
the Board remains suspended despite the appeal, in complete disregard and disobedience to the
laws of Zimbabwe,” ZIFA said in a statement.
“While the ZIFA Board is totally convinced that its appeal did suspend the SRC decision, it cannot however be involved in physical confrontation with the regulator (SRC). As such, the ZIFA Board advises the nation that, in order to avoid unnecessary drama, it shall for now take a back seat until guidance from FIFA has been received, full prosecution of the Admin Court appeal or as and when the SRC decides to obey the laws of the land, whichever will come first.”
The Africa proverb which says the grass suffers the most when two elephants fight, can be applied in this instance- the Warriors will be greatly affected by this ZIFA-SRC saga.
As it stands, the team is not even guaranteed of going to AFCON.
When the ZIFA board ‘resumed duties’ last week, it revealed plans to start preparing for AFCON, particularly the recruitment of a coach, a position which is now vacant following the expiration of Norman Mapeza’s 3-month contract.
The board also announced plans to have a delegation visit poster-boy Khama Billiat, to try and persuade the nimble-footed winger to consider bouncing back into the Warriors fold, for AFCON 2021.
All those plans are now up in smoke and with less than a month to go before the opening match against Senegal, there is no head coach to oversee the selection of the final 23-member squad.
With less than a month before the tournament kicks off, the country’s football-loving public remains in the dark as far as fundraising for the Warriors is concerned.
The SRC is adamant that it is necessary for the team to be suspended from the African showpiece but even if Zimbabwe goes on to participate, all indications point to history repeating itself.
Previous AFCON finals (2017 and 2019) were dominated by heated confrontations between the players and the Kamambo-led board over money, a set back which captain Knowledge Musona blames for the team’s failure.
This was arguably the biggest chance for the Warriors to go beyond the group stages but once again, and probably not for the last time, off-field problems will hinder that from happening.
Spare a thought for the ‘Smiling Assassin’ and his Warriors teammates.