National soccer team players who allegedly received dirty money in Asia during an unsanctioned trip last December will escape any retribution from the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).
Zifa vice president Ndumiso Gumede Thursday said the players, who claimed that they received $1 000 each during the excursion, will not be caught offside, but the football governing body will come down heavily on the suspected organisers.
Gumede’s pronouncement is in sharp contrast to that of his boss Cuthbert Dube who thundered at a press conference early this week that they wanted to “cleanse” Zifa and football in the country.
Gumede said: “The players took the money innocently. The culprits are the organisers. We can’t ban the players because we will not have a national team. If we ban the players, then we will have an inexperienced side like the Under-23 team and the next thing we will be criticised if those players fail to deliver.
“The players and the technical team have no case to answer because they only responded after they were called for national duty. Players respond positively anytime they are called for duty.
“They should have said no when they were subjected to irregular practices but they were in a foreign land. They were afraid they would be dumped there and that is why they received the money.”
The veteran football administrator admitted that the investigations into the betting and match fixing scandal was a wild goose chase but they still have to conduct the probe.
“There is no any Zimbabwean law which states that if someone receives money in Singapore then it is criminal, but we undertook this exercise because it has affected our standing on the Fifa rankings, brought, bad reputation to our country, prevented our players from joining top leagues in the world who consider rankings, and lastly because we were asked to do so by the Sports Commission.”
Former world champions France gave a one-match ban to all its 23 players who were at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa after they refused to train following Nicolas Anelka’s ejection from the squad.
For his frontline role, Anelka was further slapped with an 18-match ban while the captain Patrice Evra had a five-match ban.
SRC director general Charles Nhemachena confirmed that they had received the damning report by the Gumede commission. “I have submitted the report to the board who will instruct me on what course of action to be taken. But we have a section in our Act that deals with disciplining member associations,” said Nhemachena.
Under section 30 of the Sports and Recreation Commission Act, where the board considers a member association “has conducted itself in a manner which is contrary to national interests” the board has the discretion to de-register their affiliate.
The same Sports Commission de-registered the National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe in 2000 after the athletics body failed to submit audited accounts.
Unlike in athletics, the de-registration of Zifa will invite the wrath of the Federation of International Football Associations (Fifa) who the view Sports Commission’s intervention as government meddling.
Some of the players that took part in the controversial trip include the now South African based trio of captain Method Mwanjali, Lionel Mtizwa and Oscar Machapa. A board member has offered to fly the players back to Zimbabwe to testify.