SRC needs to resolve Zifa suspension urgently

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AS had been expected, the decision by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), the sports regulating body in Zimbabwe to meddle in the affairs of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has come at huge costs for stakeholders, with players the most affected.

The commission, led by board chair Gerald Mhlotswa suspended the Zifa board led by Felton Kamambo on November 16 last year citing a slew of allegations, including corruption and sexual abuse of the girl child.

This was ostensibly to cleanse the Zimbabwean game which the SRC claims has a governance deficiency.

Despite several warnings from the world soccer governing body that third party interference in the running of the game is prohibited and will culminate in the country in question losing membership rights and being barred from participating in international football competitions, the SRC chose not to listen.

The regulatory body said it was prepared to face the consequences of its action. Caf president Patrice Motsepe, sensing Zimbabwe’s predicament, even asked the world soccer governing body to urge SRC for the last time to reinstate the Zifa executive in order to save the national game.

The sports regulatory body said it was not in a hurry and would follow due process to cleanse Zimbabwean football. It was a missed opportunity and on Tuesday last week Fifa dropped the bombshell announcing the suspension of Zimbabwe from international football competitions, meaning Zimbabwe has lost all its membership rights, including grants made for football development.

While the Zifa decision might seem harsh, we have been equally arrogant, refusing to abide by the governing body’s statutes. So this is where it has taken our football — prematurely ending the international careers of several footballers.

If there is one thing every player or every individual yearns for, it is to represent his country of birth. I have never seen any person who doesn’t love his country. He or she might be against the leaders of the country, but will always love his country.

For a player — he wants to fight for that badge, to fly it high. It explains why Neymar came to tears as Brazil players stood for their national anthem preparing to face Mexico at the World Cup in 2014.

Now our Warriors, most of them still at the peak of their careers, will not be taking part in international competitions anymore until SRC resolves all outstanding issues as demanded by Fifa so that Zimbabwe can be readmitted to the international football family.

Besides captain Knowledge Musona and Kuda Mahachi who are in the twilight of their careers, several players will be affected by this rash emotional decision devoid of rationale.

Upcoming stars, including Leicester City forward Tawanda Maswanhise, Isaac Mabaya, who is on the books of English football giants Liverpool, and Michael Ndiweni of Newcastle are some of the players who were being courted to come and play for Zimbabwe.

Starlet Mabaya recently signed his first professional contract at English Premier side Liverpool, but will have to wait a bit longer to play for Zimbabwe because of the ban.

There is also Newcastle striker Michael Ndiweni born in England to Zimbabwean parents on December 2, 2003, seen as one of the brightest prospects for Zimbabwean football, will not have the chance to play for the country because of the embargo as well as Jimiel Chikukwa among several others. Chikukwa was nurtured at Leeds, but was signed by Watford after impressing club scouts at trials. This is a huge dent on SRC and the country.

The sports regulatory body must ensure it resolves the crisis on time to allow athletes to continue with their careers. Football is a source of livelihood for most of these athletes.

They depend on it for survival and it is, therefore, critical to treat the issue with the urgency it deserves. SRC and, in particular, its chair, Gerald Mlotshwa, needs to lower his ego and follow the rules. There are legal ways to remove the Zifa executive which do not have consequeces of this magnitude.