ZIMBABWE national soccer team might miss out on the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers as the deadline to settle outstanding salaries of former coach Brazilian-born Jose Claudinei Georgini, popularly known as Valinhos lapses today.
By Brian Nkiwane
Zifa must settle the $60 000 salary debt which has ballooned to $81 000. The World Cup draw will be conducted on July 25 in Russia.
As of end of business last night, there were no signs that Zifa were going to make the payment as Zifa boss Cuthbert Dube and Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze were still in Switzerland for the Fifa congress.
The elections entrusted Sepp Blatter with a fifth term in charge of the world football governing body.
However, the bouncing back into power by Blatter might be a blessing in disguise for Zimbabwe as Dube did not mince his words when interviewed in Zurich that he would place his vote on Blatter.
Blatter threw a lifeline to Dube two weeks ago after Zifa councillors had fired him from his post together with two other board members. This could be payback time for Blatter.
There are possibilities that after retaining power, Blatter might pardon Zifa or give them a lengthy period to pay up while they take part in the World Cup qualifiers.
Football followers also piled the blame on the Zifa leadership, who after getting close to $60 000 from the Premier Soccer League (PSL) last month, failed to prioritise Valinhos’s debt, but decided to pay other creditors that included Pandhari Lodges.
Even after getting money meant for the Mighty Warriors and Young Warriors assignments from Prophetic Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries leader Walter Magaya, Zifa diverted the money to other creditors.
A PHD Ministries official said after making the commitment to help Zifa clear the debt, their church has been waiting for the association to kick-start the initiative as well as coming up with a payment plan.
“The problem is Zifa just went quiet so we had nowhere to start from,” said the official.
Both Dube and Mashingaidze were not available for comment yesterday.
Zifa board member for finance Benard Gwarada refused to shed light on the matter but told Standardsport that the money had not been paid.
“I have nothing to say about this issue. All I know is the money has not been paid and the deadline is May 31,” Gwarada said.
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Andrew Langa said the soccer governing board had failed to meet the deadline once again.
“I can confirm that the association has not yet paid, but trust me, we are going to do our best to have Zimbabwe take part in these World Cup qualifiers.
As I speak, I am in a meeting with Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda trying to map the way forward and see what we can do on Monday to pay the debt,” Langa said.
Asked about potential sponsors that pledged assistance, Langa said they still had Magaya in the picture.
“Yes, there are a number of people who have come forward and pledged to assist. We still have Magaya in the picture. We also had promises from the Premier Soccer League [PSL], of which the other batch that they released was used to settle other debts.”
Langa dismissed any chances of Dube and Mashingaidze making the payment in Zurich.
“If there was any kind of plan like that, they should have communicated it to the ministry. We wait and see tomorrow when the two are expected back in the country.”
Fifa took the decision to boot Zimbabwe out of the competition after repeated efforts to have the two parties resolve the matter hit a snag.
After being kicked out, Fifa advised Zifa to engage Valinhos’s lawyers and gave Zimbabwe up until May 31 (today) to pay the outstanding salary.
Despite getting the lifeline, it seems everyone — including the leadership at Zifa and the ministry — went into a deep sleep, only to wake up a few hours before the deadline.
Meanwhile, Langa took a swipe at the infighting and divisions that have threatened to tear the football association apart.
His sentiments came at the backdrop of Dube having travelled to Switzerland without informing his deputy who in this case should be the acting Zifa boss.
“I think there is something wrong here. Constitutionally, when the president is away, his deputy has to take over the reins, but an official communication has to be made. In this case no official communication was made to Sibanda regarding Dube’s trip to Zurich.”
“This has actually shown me as the minister the level of the rift between Zifa board members, but we must work together for the good of the game.” Langa said.
This development came to light when Standardsport called Sibanda to try and ascertain if Zifa had paid up Valinhos’s outstanding salary, only for Sibanda to direct all questions regarding Zifa to the president.
After this publication told Sibanda that Dube was away, he professed ignorance on the trip before adding that he was not even aware of the preparations of the Mighty Warriors, Chipolopolo encounter.