The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Fifa Get Asiagate Update

FIFA development officer for Southern Africa Ashford Mamelodi flew into the country last night for a weeklong visit during which he is expected to get an update on Asiagate and the challenges that have emanated against Zifa over the sanctions imposed by the association.

Mamelodi, who is in the company of Fidelis Banda - a Fifa financial consultant - is also expected to look at progress in the Goal Project and asses Zifa's troubled finances amid revelations last month by Zifa president Cuthbert Dube that the association was now US$4 million in the red.

Zifa have for long been trying to secure additional funding from Fifa outside of the world body's financial assistance programme, which is mainly targeted at completion of Goal Projects.

The local soccer body has finally gained a lot of ground in the Goal Project with the Zifa Village in Mt Hampden now a very much refurbished place that even housed the Zimbabwe team to the Zone VI Games, currently underway in Lusaka Zambia.

Zifa will be hoping to convince Zambian, Banda and Mamelodi that they deserve an extra financial injection from Fifa to overcome the crippling challenges they face.

The Botswana-based Mamelodi is Fifa's "point man" in the Southern African region and this is his first visit to Zimbabwe since Zifa rolled out a variety of penalties ranging from life to six-month bans on individuals they found guilty in the long dragging Asiagate match-fixing scam.

As the Fifa development officer for Southern Africa, Ashford Mamelodi arrived in the country, the Zifa board, meeting for a "strategic retreat" ruled out any further extensions on the appeals' deadline.

Zifa had set November 30, as the last day for those intending to file appeals against the various penalties slapped on them by the board.

Yesterday, Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze emerged from their meeting to reveal that the deadline would not be extended.

Mashingaidze said opening the window period for more appeals could cause further delays to the conclusion of the Asiagate chapter.

The Zifa secretariat said they had so far only received the appeal fees from former Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa, Taurai Mangwiro, Luke Masomere and the national team's ex-captain Method Mwanjali.

Zifa set up a special appeals committee that includes former Black Aces chairman Chris Mbanga and high profile lawyers Thabani Mpofu and Silas Chekera to hear the protests.

"Those that have paid their US$6 000 appeals' fees will now have their cases heard.

"The deadline has since lapsed and the board resolved that there should be no further extension to the period.

"We also have Guthrie Zhokinyi and Sweswe who gave notices of intent to appeal but up to now their transactions are not reflecting.

"There is no proof of payment yet," said Mashingaidze.

Zifa will update Mamelodi on progress in the match fixing case so far.

"Mr Mamelodi is here and we will update him on Asiagate during his stay here.

"There will be no further extension because some might choose to appeal next year and we cannot wait forever. We need to complete this phase in our football.

"During their visit, Mamelodi and Banda will also assess the Goal Project and will also help us on the finances," said Mashingaidze.

A number of players who have been slapped by various fines claim that they failed to raise the US$6 000 appeal fees while some seem to have pinned their hopes on a petition prepared by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, which has been challenging the sanctions.

A non-governmental organisation -- Pan African Development Foundation -- headed by former Dynamos chairman Ignatius Pamire has also sought to challenge the manner in which Zifa handled the Asiagate penalties and threatened to take their case to the High Court.

Zifa's finances are in shambles amid indications that the cash-strapped association is US$4 million in the red as former Warriors coaches Valinhos, Chidzambwa and Norman Mapeza are demanding their severance packages.

Zifa are facing possible sanctions from the Confederation of African football after they failed to send the national Under-17 team for a return match in Brazzaville while the Under-20s suffered the same fate on their trip to Angola.

Last week Dube decried the state of affairs in the manner they have been funding football.

Dube claims to have pumped more than half a million dollars into local football and at times mortgaged his house in order to secure loans for the Warriors' adventures.

Through his family business, Buymore Investments, Dube has also been injecting funds towards the provincial division two leagues across the country.

Dube said he was hopeful that the next government will set up a stand-alone ministry of sports so that football, in particular and sports in general, benefits.

Mashingaidze said their meeting over the weekend had also agreed to convene a stakeholders meeting early next year.

"One of the resolutions passed was that we should host a retreat for all stakeholders in football.

"From this retreat we should have a strategic plan which outlines our vision and mission from the next year.

"We are hoping to bring together the Zifa Assembly, the sponsors, the Sports Commission and other partners so that we come up with an executive plan," said Mashingaidze.

During a press conference last week, Dube had pointed out that very few companies were eager to partner Zifa because of the football association's perceived bad image.

But Mashingaidze believes that Zifa should be able to turn a new leaf after their strategic retreat.

"We need to identify our priorities. I hope that we host the retreat early in the year so that we determine the tempo of football growth during the course of the year," said Mashingaidze.

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