Zimbabwe ban is new low for once-competitive team

Thu Mar 12, 2015 10:37am EDT
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By Mark Gleeson

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's expulsion from the 2018 soccer World Cup qualifiers marks a new low for a side who were once just 90 minutes away from reaching the finals.

Years of financial mismanagement, maladministration and economic malaise came back to haunt Zimbabwe on Thursday when world body FIFA expelled them from the qualifiers for the finals in Russia for repeatedly failing to pay an outstanding debt.

The Zimbabwe Football Association have been punished for constantly missing deadlines to settle an unpaid debt to Brazilian coach Jose Claudinei Georgini, better known as Valinhos.

He was owed the balance of his contract after being dismissed in 2008 and after he took his case to FIFA, Zimbabwe have been sanctioned by the disciplinary committee. Soccer has been in dire financial straits for years in the southern African country which owes over $4.0 million to creditors, according to reports made to its general meeting last month. "We are in a financial quagmire, we are in trouble. It is a microcosm of what’s happening in the economy as a whole," Zimbabwe FA spokesman Xolisani Gwesela told the BBC.

Last week ZIFA auctioned off equipment from a FIFA-funded training center in the capital Harare to try and pay some of the debt and also staved off the auctioning of a second facility in Bulawayo after agreeing a payment plan with CBZ Bank. ZIFA offices have regularly been visited by the court Sheriff to attach assets to pay creditors. Among those suing for payment are former employees and hotels, used for team accommodation but never paid. The organization's president Cuthbert Dube has also had personal affects attached after standing as a guarantor for some of ZIFA debts, local press reports said.

Three years ago ZIFA general secretary Jonathan Mashingaidze had to work out of an empty office when the Sheriff carted away all his furniture, including photocopier machines. Cars and buses have also been sold to affray expenses.

LOSING OUT It is a far cry from the 1994 qualifiers when Zimbabwe eliminated Egypt in a play-off in France and were level with Cameroon going into the last game of the preliminaries before losing out on a spot at the World Cup in the United States.   Continued...