The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe/Egypt: Zifa Seek Neutral Venue

THE Zifa board has expressed reservations at sending the Warriors to Cairo for a World Cup soccer qualifier against Egypt next month because of the current political tension in the North African country.

Zimbabwe are set to play the Pharaohs in a Group E, African qualifier for the Brazil 2014 World Cup finals during the weekend of March 22-24.

Last night, the Warriors started trooping into camp for an international friendly against Botswana at Rufaro on Wednesday which they are using as part of their preparations for the World Cup qualifier against Egypt.

Caretaker Warriors coach Klaus Dieter-Pagels indicated that chief striker Knowledge Musona is expected to fly in today while Denmark-based winger Quincy Antipas will no longer be coming after picking an injury at his club.

But Zifa president, Cuthbert Dube, yesterday pointed out that they have written to the Confederation of African Football seeking to have the match moved to a neutral venue because of the violent clashes in Egypt.

The Zifa boss said they fear for the safety of the Zimbabwe players and officials.

"They (Caf) have not responded yet, but informally, I have been told by someone at Fifa that the issue is being taken at the very highest level.

"Because if you watch television everyday the turbulence (in Egypt) seems to be worsening by the day.

"As Zifa, we would be very comfortable to play the match at a neutral venue.

"We want a venue that does not have these problems and endanger our players and officials," said Dube yesterday.

The violence in Egypt was sparked off last month in the coastal city of Port Said on the Mediterranean when hard-core football fans rioted in protest at being used as a scapegoat by the security forces for the death of over 70 Cairene supporters at a football match in February last year.

Last Friday, the protests spread to Cairo as demonstrators gathered at Tahrir Square while reports indicate that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi has declared a state of emergency in three cities near Egypt's Suez Canal following four days of civil unrest.

According to media reports from Egypt, Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya - the cities most affected by the demonstrations - would be subject to a 30-day curfew lasting from 9pm to 6am every day.

Meanwhile, Zifa have also indicated that they are broke to send the Warriors to Cairo and will be hoping that their ambitious project of the Zimbabwe Football Trust will bail them out.

"As Zifa, the budget does not cater for Warriors and Zifa is broke but I can tell you that we are going to play Egypt. However, I do not know where (at present) the match will be played," said Dube.

Dube pointed out that they will be unveiling the Zimbabwe Football Trust next weekend and this new committee has the immediate task of sourcing for the nearly US$300 000 needed to finance the Warriors' trip for their assignment against Egypt.

The yet-to-be-unveiled Zimbabwe Football Trust will also take over the crippling debt from Zifa that is standing at over US$4 million while Dube said his board will take austerity measures to raise capital from stakeholders.

During a Zifa Assembly last week, the council adopted a resolution that all players should be charged various registration fees as Zifa seek to boost their coffers.

Dube, Zifa vice-president Ndumiso Gumede and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze yesterday attended the Zifa Mashonaland East provincial general meeting where the board was trying to impress on the new fees.

"We are trying to be visible across the provinces and our next port of call will be in Mashonaland Central Province. The idea is, we have cast back our energies on Asiagate and now this is a year for reconstruction, so we would like to deploy all our energies and focus developing soccer. We spent three years embroiled in the Asiagate at the expense of football.

"Now is the time to go across all provinces and meet our stakeholders and also spell out what we are doing in terms of these austerity measures.

"From the discussions, provinces and clubs are concerned about the players' registration fees and we would like to move around and explaining to them the importance of the budget.

"One of these austerity measures is that from now on, no one will be paid a sitting allowance to sit on the Zifa board.

"People should come to football and make positive contributions instead of expecting to be paid and we want this culture to cascade from us in the board to all the regions and provinces," said Dube.

Meanwhile, Hetchford FC from Ruwa were presented with a floating shield and gold medals for winning the Mashonaland East Division Two championship last season.

Runners-up in the league Chippas were also given silver medals sourced by Dube's Buymore Investments.

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