It is only 28 days before the start of the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations to be hosted by Cameroon and the Zimbabwe Warriors’ preparations are in shambles.
Zimbabwe qualified for a third consecutive Afcon final and just like the previous two, this one is setting up to be another embarrassing expedition for the country.
This follows the suspension of the entire Zifa board by the country’s sport regulator, the Sports and Recreation (SRC), in the aftermath of a dismal World Cup qualification campaign by the Warriors about a month ago.
What it means is that at the moment Zimbabwe football has no leadership while the national team has no coach after Norman Mapeza’s short term contract ran out after the match against Ethiopia.
The SRC arrived at the decision to wield the axe on the Zifa board “following several incidences of gross incompetence on the part of Zifa, such conduct and/or omissions being contrary to the national interest, as provided for in terms of Section 30 (i) (c) of the SRC Act.”
SRC registered concern on how Zifa handled a report of alleged sexual harassment of female referees by key technical staff within the association, which the sports regulator felt was not given adequate attention in view of its gravity, among other transgressions.
While something had to be done about how football is run in this country, it is the SRC’s timing in suspending the Zifa board that leaves a lot to be desired.
There are still doubts on whether Zimbabwe will be allowed to take its place in Group B of the competition or as expected the country will be sanctioned by Fifa and be kicked out of the continental championship.
While Zimbabwe’s competitors in Group B, Senegal, Guinea and Malawi seem to be proceeding smoothly with their preparations for the tournament, the Warriors remain trapped in confusion.
The good news in the midst of the chaos is that the Zifa secretariat revealed that Mapeza had registered a provisional 40-man squad when he was still coach, but the team has to be trimmed to 23 by December 31.
The Zifa secretariat led by acting chief executive officer Xolisani Gwesela announced that they had re-appointed Mapeza to take the Warriors to Cameroon with guidance from SRC to appoint Mapeza.
But the move is problematic in that it is only the Zifa board that is allowed to appoint a national team coach and it was no surprise when the suspended bosses rubbished the development.
In a press statement the suspended board declared the appointments of Mapeza and Gwesela in the position of warriors coach and acting Zifa ceo “null and void ab initio (from the beginning) and therefore of no legal effect.”
From the look of things the suspended board is hoping that Fifa will step in and arm-twist the SRC to reinstate them while the latter is treading carefully for fear of a Fifa ban.
With every day that passes without the impasse being resolved, Zimbabwean football will sink deeper into chaos.