RELEGATED Harare City's ill-advised decision to rush to confirm their participation in the Confederation Cup has returned to haunt them, with the Sunshine Boys attracting a $3 000 fine from the Confederation of African Football for withdrawing from the tournament. Harare City, excited at the prospects of returning to the continental game after winning the Chibuku Super Cup, had confirmed their participation in writing to CAF.
But Harare City's fortunes took a new turn when they were demoted from the Premiership and that relegation changed their circumstances. Harare City will, however, escape further sanctions, which include a two-year ban from CAF competitions as they pulled out before the tournament draw was conducted.
The Sunshine Boys had sought to represent Zimbabwe, together with league champions FC Platinum, who will compete in the Champions League and the two sides had beaten the CAF deadline of November 30 by confirming through ZIFA that they would be playing in the continental tournaments.
But in a dramatic turn of events and a week after they had been relegated from the top-flight, the club's executive rescinded their decision to play in Africa's second tier competition. This follows a meeting of the Harare City executive to review their position in the wake of their demotion to the less fashionable Division One.
Harare City have also insisted that they would not be buying any Premiership franchise in order to stay in the elite league. Harare Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni had also piled on the pressure on the executive following his claims that the football club's budget was too exorbitant, with funds being splashed the expense of service delivery.
Although Harare City have decided against taking part in the Confederation Cup, ZIFA yesterday said they were yet to receive the withdrawal letter from the club and would stand guided by CAF on the way forward.
The CAF regulations are very clear regarding withdrawal and renunciation from playing. Chapter XI, Article 4 of the regulations, spells the course of action on such matters and states that:
"(4) A withdrawal reported after the engagement and before the establishment of the fixtures leads to the loss of the engaged club with an imposed fine of US$3 000.
"(10) Apart from the financial sanctions mentioned above, every club withdrawing from the competition after the establishment of the fixtures will be forbidden from participating in all CAF inter-clubs competitions for the next two editions following its withdrawal."
Harare City secretary Mathew Marara said yesterday that they have sent the letter through the Premier Soccer League and the mother body will eventually get the letter. Marara said they were aware of the CAF rules and had no qualms complying with them.
"That's not a problem. We will follow the regulations. Our team is now in Division One, so we can't play in the Confederation Cup under these circumstances. We will obviously lose players, who cannot for obvious reasons go down with us. Our focus now is development, so it is no longer practical to compete in this tournament. When we confirmed (CAF participation), we were not yet relegated," said Marara.
However, it was not clear whether the pressure from the mayor and former patron Manyenyeni influenced their decision after he chastised the executive that they had hastened to confirm their participation when they were already deep in relegation zone. The CAF deadline for teams to participate in the African Safari lapsed last Thursday. Interestingly, that was the same day that the mayor launched his attack on the club chiefs with a post on his Facebook wall.
ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said the association had registered Harare City with CAF after the club had confirmed their participation. It was a similar tale with FC Platinum's registration. "Harare City confirmed that they will participate in the Confederation Cup in writing and we have a letter to that effect. We are yet to receive their letter of withdrawal. But once we receive it, we will forward it to CAF and wait for the guideline. Only CAF will decide the way forward," said Gwesela.
With the club resolving to play Division One football and mount a strong challenge to fight their way back into the Premiership, it was always going to be a difficult scenario for Harare City to retain seasoned players only for just the Confederation Cup.
Seasoned players such as skipper Tendai Samanja, goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupanedengu and Martin Vengesai are understood to be not keen on returning to the Division One they long graduated from.