YET another major World Cup heartbreak is looming for Zimbabwean football amid revelations that the country could be thrown out of the 2022 tournament in Qatar if ZIFA fail to settle their long-standing debt to former Warriors coach Tom Saintfiet.
The Warriors are already out of contention for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers following the country’s expulsion from the global soccer showcase that was sparked by ZIFA’s failure to pay another ex-Warriors coach Valinhos his outstanding salaries.
Now broke ZIFA have admitted they could suffer the same fate if they fail to pay Saintfiet $180 000 by December.
ZIFA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze confirmed that they had been given 120 days by FIFA to settle their debt to Saintfiet, failure to which the world soccer governing body could suspend Zimbabwe from the 2022 World Cup.
Mashingaidze said the 120 day-period they were given to pay Saintfiet was with effect from August 31.
“FIFA ordered us to pay Tom Saintfiet $180 000 within 120 days from 31 August 2015 and we have been engaging Tom’s lawyers to find ways of extinguishing this debt.
“Our failure to clear this debt will leave Tom to invite FIFA to impose sanctions on us which sanctions could see FIFA suspending us from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar but it is our wish to avoid going that route and we just have to look for the money,’’ Mashingaidze said.
The demands by widely travelled Belgian coach Saintfiet are however, not a new phenomenon on ZIFA’s desk.
Just after they were hit by the Valinhos blow, ZIFA found themselves being saddled by the Saintfiet case after the short-lived ex Warriors gaffer initially won $150 000 in damages after dragging the association to FIFA.
But with cash-strapped ZIFA unable to liquidate the debt, it has been accruing interest and has now been pegged at $180 000.
Saintfiet, who originally was claiming $451 086.46 and is being represented by Spanish lawyers Ruiz, Huerta and Crespo, obtained a writ of execution after being awarded $150 000 in damages for coaching the Warriors for just one day, during the doomed 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.
The Belgian dumped his job with the Brave Warriors of Namibia and was smuggled into the country torching a coaching crisis in the senior team’s dressing room that already had Norman Mapeza as the gaffer and had Madinda Ndlovu roped in as Saintfiet’s assistant.
Saintfiet took charge of two training sessions for the Warriors in one day in the week leading to a 2012 Nations Cup qualifier against Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium.
He had signed a deal to coach the Warriors for four years, but all that went up in smoke after ZIFA were found to have had transgressed the country’s immigration laws, which resulted in Saintfiet being deported for working without a permit.
After failing to get any recourse from ZIFA, Saintfiet engaged lawyers Ruiz, Huerta and Crespo, who, like their Brazilian counterparts Bichara and Motta, the lawyers used by Valinhos in his successful battle to get FIFA to sanction ZIFA for non-payment of his dues, are specialists when it comes to sports cases and disputes.
The nomadic Belgian, who has also seen duty in Nigeria and Malawi, accused ZIFA of conspiracy in the way his farcical engagement as the Warriors’ coach and subsequent deportation was handled.
ZIFA were also heavily criticised by the local media for the way they imposed Saintfiet on a Warriors’ coaching staff that was stable under the guidance of Mapeza, who was being assisted by Joey Antipas and travelled to Liberia and picked a priceless point in the first game of the 2012 Nations Cup qualifiers.
The arrival of Saintfiet rocked that boat and triggered confusion among the Warriors, while also exposing the divisions existed within the ZIFA board then, with one group backing Mapeza, while the other one was in support of the Belgian. It has also emerged that ZIFA are also still struggling to raise $30 00 that is needed to pay Gwatidzo and Company, who audited the association’s accounts.
ZIFA’s 2014-2015 audit report is key for the October 3 extraordinary general assembly of the association scheduled for the capital.
While FIFA paid auditors KPMG have completed an audit of the books pertaining to the use of the world body’s financial assistance programme funds meant for the Goal Project, it is the ZIFA audit report that is being withheld until their external auditors have been paid.
“We need well-wishers to help us so that the audited accounts can be made public. Government is not in a position to assist,’’ Mashingaidze said.
The ZIFA chief executive said the 2011-13 accounts had been audited but it is the current audit report that the association was by late yesterday still battling to secure.
ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube has also ruled out assisting the association with paying Gwatidzo and company arguing that it would be “deemed unethical for me to be seen paying for the audit report.
“It would also mean that some people may dismiss the independence of the audit if the ZIFA president was to be seen paying for the report, the money has to come from somewhere but the report is very important for the assembly said Dube. The ZIFA leadership is today also expected to present the crisis over the audit report to the Sport and Recreation Commission when the two parties met in the capital.