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Zimbabwe pose a rare challenge for Fifa

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WHEN you are a keen follower of the intricacies of huge organisations like Fifa — like I am — you will soon discover that lingering issues like fraud, money laundering and bribery are not always handled with the seriousness they deserve.

Often, errant officials are mentioned in the public domain by Fifa, charge-sheets laid out and, in the worst-case scenario, suspensions or bans imposed.

But that is just about all, really. 

In many instances, though, other than a few slaps on the wrist, cases of misconduct have gone unpunished at Fifa so much that errant behaviour becomes part of the organisation’s DNA.

It a rarity that Fifa comes under sustained pressure on matters of ethics, as seems to be the case now, from the unlikeliest of sources, Zimbabwe. 

The suspension of Zimbabwe’s national football association, Zifa, by the country’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), appears to have put the suits in Zurich between a rock and a hard place.

Fifa is known to take swift action in matters of what it deems interference in the affairs of its member associations. A Fifa ban of that country usually follows, promptly, only lifted upon reinstatement of the suspended football executives. 

More than a month after Zifa’s suspension, Fifa has not acted – as yet.  They can well do before the Africa Cup of Nations which begins early in January in Cameroon. 

What seems to have stalled Fifa’s action in this case seems to be the sensitive sexual harassment charges brought against some close associates of the suspended Zifa board.

In these times when football has become more inclusive, Fifa has over the past few years come under stern criticism over its handling of sexual assault cases in the game. 

The very influential international players’ union, Fifpro, has been one of the fiercest critics of the world governing body’s attitude and stance towards reports of sexual harassment by women in the game globally. 

Such cases have been reported from far and wide, from all corners of the world, which constitute Fifa’s membership. 

Zimbabwe’s will certainly be one of the case studies of such incidences in the world, given some of the graphic details of reports filed by female referees in this country on the advances of a sexual nature that they were exposed to. 

It is a delicate situation.

As Zimbabwe awaits Fifa’s intervention — with football fans in the country hoping to see the Warriors at the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon — it remains to be seen if conscience can be a factor for once in the Zurich corridors.

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