ZIMBABWE – Government blew $30, 000 on a failed bid to get Zimbabwe readmitted into the 2018 World Cup with Fifa refusing to entertain a local delegation last week, Newzimbabwe.com has established.
Former Zifa chairman Leo Mugabe, his then deputy and the man who eventually ousted him from office, Vincent Pamire, Zifa lawyer Ralph Maganga and two government lawyers reportedly travelled to Switzerland last week, but were embarrassingly turned away at the reception of the Fifa headquarters in Zurich.
Sources said the delegation’s airfares, accommodation and allowances gobbled $30, 000 and it could have been more had the prime mover of the doomed appeal, minister of sports Makhosini Hlongwane made the trip.
The new minister instead opted to watch the Zimbabwe-Cameroon women;s Olympic qualifier and then travelled to Lesotho for the Warriors’ Chan match on Sunday.
Leo and Vincent were the advance party and Ralph and the other two lawyers followed later. They managed to get their visas via the Zimbabwe Embassy in Geneva as they purported they were paying a courtesy call on them.
When they arrived there, they then went to the Fifa headquarters and asked to see Acting Fifa President Issa Hayatou, but were embarrassed to be turned away right at the reception area.
They were told in no uncertain terms that Fifa does not entertain third parties and only deals with general secretaries and national association presidents and on appointments not ambushes.
They had even been told by Mamelodi before they travelled (Ashford, Fifa Southern and Central Region Development Officer) that Zimbabwe will not participate in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers but they chose to go and spend the money while the Warriors were refusing to train due to unpaid allowances for their match against Lesotho, a source NewZimbabwe this week.
Hlongwane was not available for comment but it is understood government is still pursuing the matter via the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), based in Switzerland and have already paid $1 500 for the appeal.
Maganga, Mugabe and Pamire were also not available for comment Monday and Tuesday.
But early Wednesday morning, one member of the delegation briefly confided to NewZimbabwe.com: Yes we went there. Pressed on the outcome of the trip, the member was straight to the point: Zero.
Another source added: It was wrong to assume that one can just walk in and demand to see the president of Fifa without prior arrangements and worse still none of the five are either the Zifa general secretary or president.
Remember sometime in 2008, Tendai Madzorera went to Zurich without an appointment and was not granted an audience and yet, he (Madzorera) was the association vice chairman at that time.
Zimbabwe were banned in March for failing to settle a $61, 000 debt owed to former coach Valinhos after he was fired after a doomed 2010 Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup campaign.
The figure rose to $81, 000 due to legal costs and interests.
Government eventually paid the $83, 500 debt last week before the doomed trip, after the qualifiers had already begun.
The 2018 World Cup qualifiers started last weekend and Zimbabwe, out of the 54 African nations, is the only country on the continent not participating because of the ban.
Valinhos was brought in by the Wellington Nyatangaâ€“led administration, which had taken office in 2006 and given a specific mandate of leading the Warriors to the Afcon and World Cup finals, but failed dismally after registering only two wins in the joint qualifiers.
After he was shown the door he took up his matter with the Fifa Disciplinary Committee which proclaimed that his contract had been illegally terminated.
Between 2010 and 2014, Zifa failed to agree to a settlement deal and eventually the Fifa DC was left with no choice but to ban Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe faces another lawsuit with another former coach Tom Saintfiet claiming $150 000 after a short stint with the Warriors.
The lawsuit also threatens the country’s participation in the 2022 World Cup set for Qatar.
Saintfiet was deported for working without a work permit in contravention of Zimbabwe’s Immigration laws and Hlongwane feels that he violated the country’s laws and thus they cannot be forced to pay off someone who was at fault.
Hlongwane, after the failed bid, has reportedly turned his focus on ensuring there is enough money for the Mighty Warriors and Warriors’ preparations for the Rio Olympic Games and Chan finals in 2016 respectively.