By Grace Chingoma
The seemingly never-ending Asiagate saga took a new twist yesterday as Zifa came out all guns blazing and dismissed indications that the matter had crumbled at Fifa with the association revealing nothing had changed as they still had the full backing of the world soccer governing body on the match-fixing scandal.
There had been indications last week, that Fifa had thrown out the sanctions that Zifa had imposed on players, coaches, referees and officials because of some irregularities in the manner the association had handled the matter.
Fifa had reportedly prepared an instruction to Zifa to overturn the bans on the basis that their actions were reportedly in gross violation of the World Body’s Fair Play tenets.
But it emerged yesterday that Zifa still have Fifa’s support on the Asiagate mater, at least for now, amid indications that the world body’s legal department will discuss the matter at their headquarters in Zurich this month.
Zifa, who admitted they had come under immense pressure from various football stakeholders over the last few days on the Asiagate case, maintained yesterday that they had not received any Fifa directive but had instead been told by the world body that the matter was still to be finalised by its legal department in Zurich.
The reports, Zifa also said “had caused anxiety and confusion in the domestic game as those convicted had been misled into believing that they had been let scot free’’.
Zifa president Cuthbert Dube said in a statement yesterday that Fifa had told him that the Asiagate matter would be tabled by the world body this month while he would also convene a board meeting to finalise the matter at least on the local front.
It was after his communication with Fifa that Dube came out guns blazing and accused some individuals, “with ulterior motives of distorting facts on the true picture regarding the Asiagate bans.
“Zifa is aware of the machinations and ulterior motives of some people who would like to reverse the gains of our resolute crusade against match-fixing and illegal betting. We are also aware that some people would like football in this country to be ungovernable as long as they are not in power.
“Individuals bent on causing alarm and despondency should brace for the full weight of the football statutes.
“Zifa cannot allow football to continue to be sacrificed on the altar of self-enrichment and greed. Individuals who sold the soul of Zimbabwean football at the match-fixing and illegal betting stock exchange in Asia between 2007 and 2010 should face the consequences,’’ Dube said.
Fifa, Dube also said had told him that: “What appeared is mere pure speculation. No decision has been made on Zifa’s Asiagate sanctions. The decision is likely to be made sometime this month or next month. Accordingly, the Zifa sanctions remain unchanged’’.
Zifa also earned the Footballer Union of Zimbabwe against rushing “to mislead players into believing that the Asiagate case had collapsed.
“In the meantime Zifa reserves its right to take legal action against mischief makers where deemed necessary. The Zifa board will be meeting next week to discuss finality around the Asiagate scandal.
“The association also takes exception to the reckless conduct of the Union on the ill advice being given to the players. Anyone wanting to deal with the Asiagate scandal should do so through the association and not any extension of football.
“All those who were implicated and convicted should in fact be apologetic to the football family about their actions’’.
Dube’s statement also means such individuals like Dynamos defender Guthrie Zhokinyi, CAPS United coach Taurai Mangwiro and Shabanie Mine’s Luke Masomere, would have to wait a little longer before they know of their fate.
It is those players and coaches plying their trade on the domestic front, who have had to bear the brunt of Zifa’s sanctions. Their colleagues, who are either playing or coaching outside the country’s border will only be affected should Fifa endorse the Zifa sanctions and give them a worldwide ban.
That crucial decision is now expected to be made based on the recommendations that Fifa’s legal department will give to the world body’s leadership after considering the additional information that Zifa submitted to them which includes transcripts of the hearings that were conducted by the Justice Ebrahim committee.
Dube said he had personally sought clarification from Fifa on the Asiagate matter when he returned from Algeria, arguing that he had done so to also set the record straight as some of the implicated individuals such as former Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa were reportedly lining up lawsuits against the association over the case.
“Deliberations between Zifa and Fifa should be done privately and as far as I know Fifa deals directly with associations and not with individuals who claim to be specially connected to Fifa. Fifa looks after 209 countries and is a very busy office dealing with some matters that would have taken longer to finalise than ours.
“The same Fifa held a meeting on Interpol in South Africa where Zimbabwe presented a paper on Asiagate and even Jerome Valcke (Fifa secretary-general) has often told the world that our Asiagate story helped open their eyes to the machination of match-fixers across the world and they have praised us for a job well done given our limited resources,’’ Dube said.
Fifa, Dube also said had informed them that they would issue a statement either this month or in May, informing the mother body on the outcome of the match-fixing scandal.
The Zifa president said they had also appraised the Sport and Recreation Commission, Caf and Cosafa on the developments and the correspondence they sent to Fifa.
“We have all the receipts from DHL, we even sent other copies to Cosafa, Caf and the Sports Commission. We don’t really understand where all this is coming from,” said Dube.