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Inside sport: End the blame game


IT’S confirmed. Zimbabwe will not take part in Afcon 2023, the first time since 1980 that the Warriors are missing out of the continental football competition.

Even when Zimbabwe lost its rights to host the 2000 Africa Cup of Nations finals, the country was given another chance to make an appearance in a three team qualifier that included Eriteria and Senegal which Senegal won on head -to-head after they and Zimbabwe had both finished with nine points.

So, the failure to take part in the 2023 competition is historic in its own way not only for being the first but also for having been brought about not by performance on the field of play but by the political game of chess taking place off the field itself.

The refusal by the Sports and Recreation Commission to follow a Fifa directive to reinstate the Felton Kamambo-led Zifa board they suspended on November 16, 2021, was according to the Confederation of African Football the final straw on the road to Ivory Coast 2023.

Surely, Zimbabwe cannot blame Caf or Fifa for being in this sorry position because the two international bodies gave the country enough time – including participation at Afcon 2021 – to resolve its own internal problems but that could not happen.

Even right now, Caf have extended another hand to Zimbabwe to sort out its problems and be able to participate in the Africa Nations Championships better known as Chan.

The truth is that the problem in our football could have been resolved long back and the Warriors could have — right now —been preparing for Afcon 2023 had it not been for this obsession to permanently get rid of Kamambo and Philemon Machana, thereby choosing to ignore the Fifa rules.

What is saddening in this whole episode is the fact that much of the time allocated by Caf and Fifa for Zimbabwe to resolve its own crisis was spent on pointing fingers at the suspended Zifa board, forgetting that the most important thing was engaging Caf and Fifa and addressing their concerns.

The situation was made even worse by the appearance — in the drama — of new characters harbouring Zifa executive position ambitions who also came in with another blame game to suit their intentions and thereby eating extra days from the Caf ultimatum.

Even right now there are some who think that there was no need for Afcon 2023 because Zimbabwe was after all not going to play at home due to the bad stadium factor after the National Sports Stadium was banned from hosting international matches.

Football cowards also argue that the Warriors were in fact not going to qualify for the finals after being placed in the same group with African football heavyweights the Atlas Lions of Morocco and fast improving Bafana Bafana of South Africa.

Forgotten, however, is the gap that will be created between Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa at the time Zimbabwe returns to international football as well as how much in terms of player gains will those in Zimbabwe lose.

The fact that Zimbabwe will not be playing against other national teams even in friendly matches means the country will not be able to conclusively assess the overall strength and team spirit of its future national team players during the period of isolation.

In fact, nobody knows for how long this suspension from international football will last and there is also no guarantee that Fifa will not insist on Kamambo’s reinstatement even after Zimbabwe has done everything it can to satisfy the international football body.

In fact, there is another school of thought that is of the opinion that the suspension of Kamambo and Friends was done emotionally without looking at a broader picture especially it’s pros and cons.

The fact, however, remains that Fifa and only Fifa hold the key to our future in international football and only them can re-open the doors for our return.

Even if we do not agree with them, we have no option but to do what they want because this is an association we joined on our own and for that matter freely and without anybody pulling strings or holding a gun on us.

What the SRC needs to seriously do right now is to engage Fifa and find out what exactly they want Zimbabwe to do to guarantee the country’s return to international football in future instead of the blame game we have been playing all along.

The SRC should come up with a clear roadmap that vindicates their course of action because as it stands right now, there is no direction to the future.

It is only by doing it the Fifa way that will help Zimbabwe retain its position in international football and not doing it the Zimbabwe way. — That is the reality.

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