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Harare and Nairobi to Moscow and Kiev: what a week for Fifa!

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IF you are like me, you will probably be punch-drunk, by now, from the legal jargon flying between the Sports and Recreation Commission and the Zimbabwe Football Association, the two antagonists in the country’s topical football conflict.

International football governing body Fifa – world sports’ most powerful organisation and the richest – has not helped matters either.  

Deep pockets and all, the suits in Zurich obviously do not mind spending a lot of loot to hire the best legal minds on the planet to convince everyone that they are right, even when clearly Fifa’s integrity is increasingly getting questioned by each passing era, and by each administration.

So, let us try simplifying things a little bit in the wake of Fifa’s recent suspension of Zimbabwe from international football on the basis of government interference in the affairs of the national football federation, Zifa. 

For me, quite a few arguments stand out in the SRC’s defiance of Fifa over the sacking of the Zifa board, which has eventually courted the ban.

One, a question: what do we really take ourselves for as a nation that we should force the hand of Fifa to ban us? There is a high likelihood, in response to that question, that the entire footballing world will simply wake up the next morning and move on with their lives, poor little Zimbabwe wallowing in isolation, for all the world cares. 

The SRC is adamant that not giving in to Fifa’s demands is a principled stance, a position they will only move from when they are convinced that football in Zimbabwe is ripe for a return to the “Fifa family”, after the house is in order. 

It is a plausible line of argument, to many followers of Zimbabwean football, given the chaotic way football has been governed in this country for far too long.

But another question: when will that be as a nation when we finally decide that we want to return to the Fifa family? And will the decision to walk in straight back be in our hands at that time?

Fifa’s condition to lift Zimbabwe’s suspension is the unconditional re-instatement of the Zifa board, headed by Felton Kamambo.

So help me out here: does this mean then that at the time we “get our house in order”, in two, three, four years’ time, or whatever, we still have to present Kamambo & Co to Fifa as the rightful leaders of Zifa in order to negotiate our way back into international football?

This will be going around in circles, and it is not making any sense to me at all right now. Under these circumstances, it is pretty hard to see a quick return for Zimbabwe if the SRC continue to stick it up to Zurich. 

Fifa have totally ignored SRC proposals for the formation of a normalising committee for Zifa. Given precedents in other countries, where governments or their associates have dared act against the the football associations, perhaps you cannot blame Fifa for being Fifa.

But that does not mean things should not change, and that Fifa should not be held accountable for clear double-standards in cases they have been asked to behave like they exist in the real word in which transgressions ought to be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Zimbabwe and Kenya – both banned by Fifa last week – might not be the greatest footballing nations on the planet. But they have presented Fifa with a rare integrity test, which thankfully has coincided with other developments in another part of the world, around the same time.

Fifa this week banned Russian national teams and clubs from international football over the country’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In 2016, Croatia and Kosovo, both formerly part of Yugoslavia, were heavily fined by Fifa for anti-Serbian chants. 

This is because Fifa have a policy against political and religious stances in any form in activities under their umbrella.

Yet, as if they exist in isolation, Fifa look the other way when authorised bodies in member nations play their watchdog roles.

Zimbabwe and Kenya – with Russia and Ukraine’s clash backing it up – might well show the world how the modus operandi need to change in Zurich. 

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