Zimbabwe’s government has expressed its appreciation for the lifting of an 18-month ban by FIFA, allowing the country’s football team to once again compete internationally. FIFA had imposed the ban in February 2022 after the government in Harare attempted to take control of the Zimbabwe Football Association due to alleged financial discrepancies and failure to address cases of sexual abuse against female players by football officials.
Although the issues surrounding the ban have yet to be fully resolved, FIFA decided to lift the suspension as scheduled, just in time for the qualifiers for the upcoming World Cup, set to begin in Ivory Coast.
The lifting of the ban comes as a huge relief to football fans in Zimbabwe, where the sport has gained immense popularity in recent years. Sports Minister Kirsty Coventry addressed reporters in Harare, stating that the ban was a necessary sacrifice for the betterment of Zimbabwean football in the long run.
“Hundred percent it was worth it. It was hard, it came at a cost that we all knew before we took the decision, but to get to this final stage, where we can sit down and agree finally on [a] way forward, that is going to benefit us as a country. Hundred and ten percent it was worth it,” Coventry remarked.
Lincoln Mutasa, the chairman of the FIFA-mandated “normalization committee” responsible for organizing elections for the Zimbabwe Football Association and investigating the allegations of sexual abuse and corruption, expressed a different perspective on the consequences faced by Zimbabwe.
“It was hurting, not only the sports people but ourselves, all the sports parents,” Mutasa stated. “You put so many hours to try to get your kid to excel in a sport, when this doesn’t happen or when this is frustrated, it’s a big mountain to climb. So, I am really delighted for all parties involved for finding each other.”
Solomon Mudege, FIFA’s manager for development programs in Africa, emphasized the need for the Zimbabwean government to refrain from interfering in the affairs of the football association. Mudege stressed the importance of open communication between FIFA, the government, and the Zimbabwe Football Association to prevent any disruptions in the future.
“I can assure you that in the coming days you will see a more transparent FIFA, how they share what is important and how they share investments from governments, and investments from FIFA. It’s something that we are proud of,” Mudege said. “So there is no change in FIFA’s approach. What we encourage is more engagements. We shouldn’t talk to each other in situations of crisis and conflict.”
With the ban lifted, Zimbabwe will participate in the African qualifiers for the next World Cup, which commence this Thursday in Ivory Coast. Zimbabwean football enthusiasts eagerly anticipate their team’s return to the international stage, ready to showcase their talent and passion for the sport.