ZIMBABWE is targeting a swift return to international football early next month in time for the upcoming Cosafa Cup and the start of the qualification for the 2026 Fifa World Cup.
This follows the positive engagement between the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) and representatives from world football governing body Fifa and the Confederation of African Football (Caf) who were in the country last week on a fact-finding mission.
Zimbabwe is currently suspended from international football competitions due to third party interference in the running of the sport in the country.
The country’s clubs and national teams have gone on to miss all key international competitions in the one year due to the Fifa suspension.
But the visit to Zimbabwe by Fifa and Caf to meet with the SRC, Zifa, the Premier Soccer League and other football stakeholders including suspended Zifa boss Felton Kamambo and his henchmen appears to have lifted the dark cloud that was hanging above the country's football.
The SRC announced that talks with Fifa have been positive and there is speculation that the world football body is keen to urgently appoint a normalisation committee and lift the suspension on Zimbabwe.
“There was an agreement in principle for the lifting of suspension and imposition of the normalization committee. CAF and FIFA want Zimbabwe’s suspension to be lifted urgently so the country can participate in the Cosafa tournament next month and also in the World Cup qualifiers in July,” a source told Standardsport.
“They want the SRC to confirm that a normalisation committee is an acceptable option under the circumstances and the sports regulator is seemingly in agreement because it sees no capacity at the current Zifa setup to institute any reforms,” added the source.
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There are no official dates for the Cosafa Cup and 2026 Fifa World Cup Africa qualification.
A major factor in the discussions between Fifa and SRC is that the two parties agreed that Fifa’s earlier demands for the lifting of the suspension had been overtaken by changed circumstances.
Fifa had demanded that the SRC disband the Zifa Restructuring Committee, which does not exist anymore, reinstate Zifa secretary general Joseph Mamutse whose suspension was lifted after the EGM of last year and also drop the fraud charges against Kamambo and his board members.
The world football body had also requested the reinstatement of Kamambo and team who were removed from office by congress while their terms of office have already expired
SRC is understood to have argued they could not legally reinstate them as it would undermine congress and the Zifa constitution.
Only congress can reinstate them but there’s no longer anyone in office lawfully since its term has also expired.
“Fifa and Caf had distorted views about some of these conditions like the fraud charges and earnestly thought that these were just but a personal vendetta aimed at Philemon Machana by the SRC board chairman Gerald Mlothswa. They accepted that they had been misled,” said the source.
Fifa is set to institute its own forensic audit going back beyond the Kamambo era.
Following what they termed ‘productive meetings’ with Fifa and Caf, the SRC promised to give more updates on the new developments at the beginning of May.
“The SRC acknowledges and accepts these calls for action and commits to utilising the positive relationships it has built with Fifa and Caf over the past year, particularly during this week's meetings, to work towards resolving Zifa's encumbered status. The public will receive further updates on this matter, particularly during the first week of May 2023,” SRC said in a statement.