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FIFA have backed ZIFA councillors to hold their indaba in Harare on Saturday, as long as they form a quorum, and issued a chilling warning the association could be declared bankrupt and struck off the membership of the international football family.

The issue of the ZIFA Extraordinary Meeting, called for by about half the ZIFA Council to discuss the state of football in the country, was discussed yesterday at a meeting between the ZIFA Board and a FIFA delegation that has been in Harare this week.

Thierry Regenass, the FIFA director of member associations and development, Zelklifi Ngoufonja, the FIFA senior development manager for Africa and Ashford Mamelodi, the FIFA development manager for East and Southern Africa, have been meeting ZIFA and Government officials.

They have been discussing the state of football in this country, especially the crippling ZIFA debt that has been weighing down on the association, and how the organisation can pluck itself out of the financial challenges they find themselves in.

But while the FIFA delegation expected to find a bad situation, they are unlikely to have imagined the situation would be as horrible, as is the case right now, and matters came to a head when the Zurich representatives met the ZIFA Board at the ZIFA Village.

Miriam Sibanda, whose status remains unclear, attended the meeting as the Women Football boss, despite her suspension from the ZIFA Board having been endorsed by the association’s president, Cuthbert Dube, and chief executive, Jonathan Mashingaidze.

ZIFA Board member, in charge of finance, Ben Gwarada also attended the meeting and chronicled how much he has been isolated from the financial transactions at the association since March last year.

Gwarada said he was unaware of the extent of the ZIFA debt and, crucially, the funds which has flowed from FIFA, and other sources, into the association’s accounts in the past year.

The FIFA officials warned the ZIFA Board that they were sitting on a time bomb and there was a very g likelihood the association would be declared bankrupt, and struck off the world football governing body’s family.

Alternatively, said the FIFA representatives, ZIFA could dissolve itself and then assume another identity, which would not have to carry the weight of the debt the association continues to have on its shoulders.

“The FIFA officials clearly said they were surprised the recommendations they tabled, for ZIFA to try and raise funds when they last came here, were not implemented and we continue to pile more debt on the association,” said sources.

“They said we can’t continue running huge costs, in terms of fielding national teams in every competition, when what we are simply doing is piling on the debt and it has reached a point where it has become unmanageable.

“They told us that we are sitting on a time bomb, which can explode any time, and there is a very g likelihood that ZIFA could be declared bankrupt and that comes with a huge cost because you are struck off the FIFA register until you put yourself into a position that you can sustain yourself.

“They also said we could dissolve ourselves and then return under a different identity, an association that won’t be liable to the debt that we have right now, and the president (Dube) asked about what will happen to his properties, whose title deeds are being held by banks in relation to ZIFA debts, and the FIFA officials said that’s an internal issue we have to sort out.

“What is very clear is that we have a very, very grave situation and the FIFA officials came face-to-face with far more than what they expected and it’s very clear the report they are going to compile, about their visit here, will make very depressing reading.”

The issue of the ZIFA councillors, who have called for a meeting on Saturday to discuss the state of the game in this country, was also discussed with Mashingaidze telling the FIFA delegation that 21 genuine councillors had signed the petition to back the indaba while other signatures had allegedly been forged.

However, the FIFA officials told the ZIFA Board members that they had no power to stop councillors from holding the indaba, as long as they formed a quorum, and they should leave them to discuss the state of the game.

“We were told that it’s within their rights, as councillors, to have their meeting and discuss whatever challenges is affecting their game as long they are not getting undue influence from outside and if they form a quorum,” said the sources.

“We were told that the councillors are the ones who elect us and we can’t stop them from discussing issues about their game.”

Buoyed by FIFA’s position, the councillors immediately responded to a letter, sent by Mashingaidze this week suggesting that the indaba on Sunday was illegal, by saying their meeting would go ahead as scheduled.

“We acknowledge receipt of the AGM reminder sent to us by the CEO, Mr J. Mashingaidze,” the councillors said in their letter yesterday.

“We would like to reiterate our position that the EGM called for 16 May 2015 was called by more than one third council members as provided in the ZIFA Constitution, Article 28.

“Please note that all other meetings are called by the Secretary General in terms of the constitution BUT this meeting is strictly called by Assembly Members to discuss matters circulated on the Agenda which was copied to you.

“In view of the above, may all Members be aised that the EGM will go ahead at Cresta Lodge Hotel on 16 May 2015 at 1000 HRS as previously communicated. Our meeting remains valid and constitutional.”

Source : The Herald

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