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Coventry refuses to budge on Fifa ban

Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister, Kirsty Coventry

YOUTH, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister, Kirsty Coventry has quashed any lingering hopes of the government reinstating the fired Zifa board members as has been demanded by Fifa for the country’s suspension from international football to be lifted.

Zimbabwe was suspended by Fifa last year over government’s meddling in the affairs of Zifa and this month that ban was reinstated at the Fifa congress in Rwanda, since nothing had changed.

The government and the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) insist on a reform strategy which will see among other things the establishment of a new Zifa constitution, yet Fifa have been categorical that only the return of Felton Kamambo and crew will see the ban lifted.

Coventry was on Wednesday put to task by MPs Innocent Gonese, Willias Madzimure and Chalton Hwende over Zimbabwe’s continued suspension by Fifa.

The parliamentarians grilled Coventry on why she insisted on a plan that would not be acceptable to Fifa, but the swimming legend said the government would not reinstate the fired Zifa board.

“For clarity, the reasons that the SRC stepped in and suspended the board were three. The first reason was that government had given Zifa about US$2 million that has never been accounted for,” she said.

“Secondly, four female referees have come forward and given their statements to police and they have been investigated. Three of those members were on the board. One of those members has already received a lifetime ban from Fifa from their own investigations that have been done over the last two months with a SF25 000 fine. Fifa is now investigating the second member that was on the board that was sexually abusing and harassing these women. Fifa knew that this was happening in 2018/19 when these women filed an appeal with Fifa and got no response. They then came to government — SRC, government and my office worked together with these women to ensure that police reports were done and statements were made. We then went back to Fifa and Caf and we requested for them to step in, but they refused. We then stepped in and suspended the executive for the things that I have just shared with Members of Parliament, which I have shared previously.”

She said that they have accepted the ban and have not asked Fifa to lift it.

“We then stepped in and as you know, Fifa then stepped in afterwards to suspend us from international soccer. We accepted that. We have never asked them to lift it. We do not want them to lift it at this point until we have cleared and cleaned up our soccer. We are not doing as other honourable members may say a disservice, a disservice to who?”

Hwende challenged Coventry to rescue the game.

“The issue that is here is that Zifa has been suspended because of the interference of the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation through the Sports and Recreation Commission; and they are clear that as long as you do not reinstate the former Zifa president, Zifa is going to remain banned. So the solution is supposed to come from the minister — this is why we are asking Hon. Speaker, that she can tell us the roadmap because it is now over two years, we are not having any soccer.  Even the stadiums that she was supposed to renovate, she has failed just to fix our stadiums so that they can be at the standard that Fifa expects.” 

Coventry said the SRC was working on cleaning up the game before they consider approaching Fifa.

“The role of the Sports and Recreation Commission is to work with Zifa to find a way forward — they are doing that.  Once they have done that, once they have agreed on that, they will take that to Caf and Fifa and we should see a result. The ministry will stand firm with the suspension of the Zifa.  We interfered for the reasons that are already out there that the public and Members of Parliament know.  I shared with them the last time.  The ministry as well as government will stand firm and stand behind the Sports and Recreation Commission in the expulsion and the suspension of the former Zifa board until we see things moving forward,” the minister said.

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