By Nigel Matongorere
The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is in danger of missing out on further Fifa Goal Project funding after losing the artificial turf installed at the Zifa Village in Mt Hampden.
Zifa in 2009 successfully applied for financial assistance from the world soccer governing body and was granted a total of $515 444 under the Goal Project Number 2.
Using the funds, Zifa built a football pitch laid with artificial turf and made other cosmetic renovations to the facility some 40km outside Harare.
However, the artificial turf was attached and auctioned off last year to settle a debt owed to former Zifa communications manager Nicky Dhlamini-Moyo.
The turf was purchased by a trust which runs a Harare private school and in the near future it will be removed from the Zifa Village to be re-laid at the school’s property.
All this happened under former president Cuthbert Dube’s watch as the association wasted thousands of dollars fighting litigation from ex-employees and creditors owed over $6 million.
The Zifa secretariat had not notified Fifa about the sale of the artificial turf leaving the Zurich-based world football body in the dark about the entire episode.
Last week, Fifa dispatched their artificial turf expert Eric Harrison to inspect the condition of pitches they funded at Rufaro Stadium and Zifa Village.
Harrison, a professor with a Bachelor of Science degree in Polymer Science from the Liverpool University, was only able to assess the turf at Rufaro.
Harrison inspected the turf at the stadium located on the outskirts of the densely populated suburb of Mbare on Wednesday.
The previous day, the erudite professor had been barred from
inspecting the Zifa Village artificial turf by guards hired by the school.
The school now has exclusive control of the pitch since they bought it above board during a public auction conducted on behalf of the High Court.
Upon purchasing the artificial turf, the school locked all access gates to the facility and is now asking all those intending to use it to pay upfront.
The school’s owners were forced to deploy guards to protect the facility after it emerged that the Mighty Warriors players were scaling the perimeter fence and would train on the pitch without permission.
The Daily News on Sunday understands Harrison was not impressed by the fact that Zifa had deliberately brought him to inspect a pitch they knew no longer belonged to the association.
Harrison is now going to notify Fifa about the change in ownership of the Zifa Village artificial turf which puts the association at risk of missing out on further assistance from the Zurich.
At the moment, Zifa is in line to receive a further $600 000 from Fifa as part of the Goal Project Number 3 to build a new headquarters.
The project was approved in March 2012 but the funds have not yet been disbursed because Zifa has not yet secured land to build the new headquarters on.
But with the latest debacle involving the artificial turf at Zifa Village, Fifa is likely to withhold the funds.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela professed ignorance about the matter and denied that Harrison had been in the country last week.
“There is no one from Fifa who came in the country. The only person we are expecting from Fifa is scheduled to arrive this coming week and he will be dealing with youth development,” Gwesela said.
There is also more embarrassment in store for the local association as the Messenger of Court is scheduled to pounce on Zifa Village tomorrow to remove attached property to settle an outstanding debt owed to photographer Lazarus Riva.
The court bailiffs will remove the perimeter fence around the artificial turf, two substitutes’ benches, two goals posts, net, three water tanks, a large industrial stove, a cold room and one deep freezer.
Last week, Zifa lost office furniture at 53 Livingston Avenue that was also attached as part of Riva’s debt.
Riva is owed $19 000 by the association dating back from Dube’s reign. Daily News