ZIFA could be forced to invoke Fifa statutes on Stade Reims after the French Ligue 1 refused to release Warriors star Marshall Munetsi (pictured) for national duty.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The midfielder was named in the squad for the back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations Group H qualifiers against Algeria last week, but did not pitch up.
Stade Reims refused to release the 24-year old claiming that he was injured despite playing the whole match in a 4-4 draw away to Lens just four days prior to the trip to Algiers.
Zifa proceeded to write back to the French club demanding the release of the player so that he could be assessed by national team doctors. Reims disregarded the directive.
This incensed Zifa which is scheduled to meet over the row, with indications that they will report the issue to Fifa.
The world football governing body does not take lightly cases of clubs refusing to release players for national duty. European clubs in particular have been the major culprits, and while some have suffered punishment by Fifa before for the transgressions, the problem still persist.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela yesterday said the association would meet soon to discuss the issue so that no similar problem can happen in the next Warriors assignments.
“They (Reims) refused to release the player. We wrote to them demanding the release of the player so that he could be assessed by our medical staff but they declined. We will be meeting soon to decide the next course of action,” he said.
While representing one’s country remains one of the highest honours for most footballers, they are often caught up in club-versus-country rows with their clubs at times reluctant to release them.
This is a predicament currently facing Munetsi who has evolved to be a key member of both the Warriors and Stade Reims.
Fifa regulations explicitly state that clubs are obliged to release any of their registered players to a national representative team if they are called up.
Annexe 1 of the “Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players” lays out 11 principles for managing the issue of national team call-ups.
Principle 1.1 says: “Clubs are obliged to release their registered players to the representative teams of the country for which the player is eligible to play on the basis of his nationality if they are called up by the association concerned. Any agreement between a player and a club to the contrary is prohibited.”
Despite missing one of their key players in Munetsi, the Warriors put up a brave show against the Desert Foxes who are the reigning African champions losing 3-1 in Algiers before holding them to a 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
In Munetsi’s absence, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić was forced to deploy Ovidy Karuru as the defensive midfielder in the away match. Tafadzwa Rusike was then preferred to start in that position at home. Both gave a very good account of themselves, although most analysts believe Munetsi could have done a better job there.
The point gained against Algeria put Zimbabwe very close to qualifying for the 2022 Afcon finals.
With five points from four matches, the Warriors could seal their place at the finals if they win their next match away to Botswana, hoping that Zambia will fail to beat Algeria.
Algeria top the group with 10 points and have already qualified for the finals.
Botswana are third with four points while Zambia is at the foot of the table with three.
The top two teams from the group will qualify for the continental soccer showcase to be hosted by Cameroon next year.
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