THE Zimbabwe national football team, the Warriors, will miss the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers because the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) simply cannot swallow its pride and admit that it blundered in suspending the Zifa board.
This has been coming since the SRC chairperson Gerald Mlotshwa made an ill-thought decision to suspend the Felton Kamambo-led board, making several allegations, including incompetence, corruption and sexual harassment and a host of other charges that failed to stick in a competent court of law.
It was obvious that the move contravened Fifa and Caf statutes which prohibit government interference in the running of football associations. It did not, therefore, come as a surprise when Fifa suspended Zimbabwe for government interference.
The SRC-driven court gambit did not work, ditto for the attempt to coerce Zifa councillors into holding an extraordinary general meeting designed to revoke the mandate of the Kamambo executive.
All the while, the world football governing body made it clear that it will not recognise the meeting and stressed that the only way Zimbabwe’s ban will be lifted is when Kamambo and Zifa general-secretary Joseph Mamutse have taken control of the association’s affairs.
To any right-thinking individual, the sensible course of action would be to comply with the directive, reinstate the Kamambo board and pursue other alternatives if he so desperately wants him out.
But the dense SRC has opted for the nuclear option of grounding local football by isolating it from any international engagements to focus on, in the words of unashamed praise singers, “domestic reform and addressing fundamentals”.
The strategy to lift suspensions of some members of the Zifa board fall far short of what is required to have the embargo lifted.
So, the Warriors miss out on the next Afcon finals that will be played in Ivory Coast, and miss the chance to fight it out with Morocco, South Africa and Liberia in the qualifiers.
The beautiful game — which has proved to be among the few positives in a country gripped by economic chaos, providing the much-needed cheer — is being throttled by a desperate man pointlessly throwing his weight around.
Even the kind gesture by Caf to afford Zimbabwe room to correct the wrong was spurned.
The excuse that there is not money to fund the hosting of home matches in foreign land is lame and clearly not true as national team players had already been invited for the qualifiers against Liberia at home and South Africa away.
By Mlotshwa’s own admission, a large chunk of the US$1,5 million raised by the Afcon 2019 fundraising committee is sitting in a bank account, with only about US$200 000 used. The money would have been handy for the Warriors to fulfil their fixtures.
So, Zimbabwe cannot even participate in regional competitions like Cosafa, while local clubs have to miss the African champions league as well.
The hubris of one man, Gerald Mlotshwa, is killing football in this country. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be anyone in government with a spine to call him to order.