PHILLIP Chiyangwa yesterday stormed to the Zifa presidency and immediately came face-to-face with the massive challenges bedevilling local football. Soon after being confirmed as the new Zifa boss, following an emphatic victory over the trio of Trevor Carelse Juul, Lesley Gwindi and James Takavada, at an Extraordinary General Meeting convened at the Zifa Village the flamboyant businessman came face-to-face with some ugly truths.
A top Fifa official, who was in the country to observe the polls, warned that Zimbabwe risked being suspended from the 2022 World Cup for failing to settle its dues with former Warriors coach Tom Saintfiet.
Luca Nicola, the world soccer governing body’s manager for member associations, told Chiyangwa, who polled 40 votes compared to Juul’s 13, Gwindi’s two and Takavada’s single vote, that his new board has to pay former Saintfiet his dues by January 4 or risk being suspended for the second consecutive World Cup.
The country was booted out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers for failing to pay former coach Valinhos his dues.
“This election victory comes with responsibilities,” Nicola told Chiyangwa and his new board.
“Now there is a specific issue I want to raise with regards to the debt, you all know that there is a case at the Fifa disciplinary committee. That case was brought by the former coach of the national team Mr Saintfiet and the decision of the Fifa disciplinary committee is if the debt Zifa owes Mr Saintfiet is not settled by the fourth of January, so a month from now, (and) upon request of Mr Saintfiet Zimbabwe might be disqualified from the 2022 World qualifiers in Qatar.
“Now this is a repetition of what you have already experienced in this country, you have been disqualified from the 2018 World Cup because of a debt you owe former coach Valinhos.
“So really I urge the incoming executive and Zifa as whole to address this issue as soon as possible and avoid further problems when it comes to World Cup qualifiers.”
On the positive Nicola noted that the adoption of audited accounts at yesterday’s EGM is expected to see Zifa being eligible to receive Fifa grants again.
In his maiden address to the Zifa Assembly Chiyangwa, who looked unease as the voting process unfolded and shuttled between his SUV vehicle and the boardroom countless times, reached out to the losing trio of Juul, Gwindi and Takavada.
“I was not expecting this (victory) in the manner that it has happened,” said the maverick Chiyangwa who was mobbed by a band of praise singers who constantly interrupted his speech with shouts of his Gushungo totem.
“I would like to work with everyone whom I competed with, thank you gentlemen you put up a good fight. I didn’t get 57 votes, I had to scramble to this victory. I find myself in a family that has to grow and change the way it does business. We have the $6 million debt and a lot of other issues that have to be addressed,’’ he said.
“I don’t want to be a repeat of the past when the game is my game; I would like to work with the councillors.”
Chiyangwa, who promised to order a forensic audit of the Zifa books “soon after winning the elections”, will be deputised by Omega Sibanda who shrugged off the challenge of Lincoln Mutasa.
Sibanda polled 34 votes compared to Mutasa’s 23.
Former Warriors midfielder Edzai Kasinauyo, Zifa central region chairman Felton Kamambo, Zifa eastern region boss Piraishe Mabhena and businessman Phillimon Machana also made it into the board.