Zifa tackle tricky Asiagate match fixing bomb
By Augustine Hwata
The Zifa board meets in the capital today to discuss the Asiagate report and find the best possible way to deal with a delicate issue capable of rocking the Warriors’ boat and sending their battle for the 2012 Nations Cup finals spinning off course. The meeting starts at 2.30pm and could meander right into the night.
The last indaba on August 19 could not come up with a position after some board members raised the key point that they were seeing the Asiagate Report II for the first time that day.
Those board members were apparently unhappy that the report had been circulated virtually everywhere, except within the board, when they were the ones mandated by the electorate to formulate policy.
Last months’ meeting was the first indaba by the Zifa leadership since the Ndumiso Gumede-led team had closed their investigations into the Warriors’ controversial trips to Asia. Zifa had also been buying time in the hope that Fifa’s head of security Chris Eaton was going to come to Zimbabwe and help the domestic football with their investigations.
But the promised visit has so far failed to materialise amid reports that they are now likely to come at the end of this month. Fifa are trying to find a delicate way of handling the Zifa report, which has the capacity of destroying the 2014 World Cup finals.
Part of the report contains damaging allegations that the same Asian match-fixing agents, accused by the Gumede team of paying the Warriors to lose matches, also bribed the Brazilian national team.
The 1998 World Cup final, in particular, is mentioned in the report as having been manipulated by the Asian bookmakers after they allegedly paid Ronaldo to feign injury on the eve of the final between France and Brazil.
However, Fifa invited Ronaldo to conduct the draw of the 2014 World Cup, even though they had gone through the Zifa Asiagate report, suggesting that they ignored those damaging allegations.
Eaton’s visit to Zimbabwe will certainly throw the Brazilian story into the limelight once again, with possible consequences for the 2014 World Cup show, and Fifa have been struggling to find the best way to deal with the issue.
The 13-member committee is, however, going into today’s meeting after going through Fifa-backed seminar for secretary-generals and chief executives in held in Victoria Falls last month.
According to a copy of the meeting’s agenda, Zifa lawyer Ralph Maganga is expected to present his report to the board. Zifa are saddled by a number of lawsuits with former Warriors’ coaches Sunday Chidzambwa, Tom Saintfiet and Valinhos all seeking to get their outstanding dues from the association.
Chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze is also set to make his presentation, which should highlight a raft of appointments that have been made at the Zifa Office. Those appointments will have to be ratified by the Zifa board.
They include the appointment of Joseph Mamutse as the Chief Operating Officer at Zifa, Benjamin Dhewa as the finance and administration manager and Obert Mhoya as the marketing manager. Zifa have also appointed a communications manager, Nicky Dhlamini.
The association has been under intense pressure from Fifa to streamline the operations of their secretariat, through key appointments to several portfolios, to take the load off Mashingaidze’s shoulders.
The hardworking Mashingaidze has been overwhelmed by the amount of work that he has been tasked with carrying at Zifa and, a few months ago, was rushed to hospital amid concern that he had been stressed out.
Today’s meeting is also coming just hard on the heels of the Warriors’ 3-0 win over Liberia in a Group A, African Cup of Nations qualifier at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday. Zifa is now set to carry a post-mortem of the game and also plan for the last qualifier against Cape Verde on October 8.
In-between now and the tie in Praia, it’s ideal that Norman Mapeza gets a high profile international friendly. Interestingly, Mapeza was also fingered in the Asiagate report, as is the case with many of the players leading the Warriors in the current qualifiers, and how Zifa handle this issue will be interesting.
Mapeza, just like the majority of those fingered, denies any wrong-doing.
His assistant, Joey Antipas, was also fingered in the Asiagate report. Zifa have to decide as a board whether they adopt the recommendations made by Gumede and his team that an independent disciplinary committee be formed to try all those implicated.
Last week Zifa president Cuthbert Dube had to make a public undertaking to the Warriors that they would not be punished, when they returned home for the Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia, after a load of speculative reports claiming that the players would be sanctioned.
Dube, who has been battling to find the best possible way to deal with the issue, will have to move mountains to balance the need to resolve the issue while at the same time not rocking the Warriors’ boat.
Refreshingly, there has been a change of heart among some board members who were viewed as hardliners with Benedict Moyo, the secretary of the investigating committee, telling The Herald on Monday that the mission to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup finals was the biggest battle.
Moyo said the board was now fully behind Mapeza and revealed that it was a mistake for the Zifa leadership to tamper with the coaching staff leading to the game against Cape Verde last week.
“It was unfortunate that we got into a situation where we had co-coaches for the home game against Cape Verde when it is clear that in football there is no democracy because you only have one guy barking the orders,” said Moyo.
“As part of the Zifa leadership, we regret all that, it is something that should not have happened and to me it remains a 10 October 2010 disaster.”