‘It was hard, but it was worth it’

Steve Vickers, BBC

Minister of Youth, Arts, Sports and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, has said that it has been worth delaying any return, given the seriousness of the issues which caused it.

Coventry made the remarks during a press conference held in Harare on Tuesday morning.

This comes at the backdrop of the lifting of Zimbabwe Football Association suspension by the football’s governing body, FIFA.

“I know many judged us very harshly for the decision we took, but the way in which our football was running was heavily dependent on what the administrators wanted and was only for their benefit,” said Coventry.

“We have an opportunity to build and rebuild a solid foundation that sees all of the stakeholders thriving – our fans, youth players, women’s and men’s players, coming together, uniting.

“It was hard, but it was worth it, to have a way forward that’s going to benefit us as a country – 110% it was worth it,” she said.

Just days before the draw for the African qualification tournament for the 2026 World Cup, FIFA has lifted its 18-month suspension of the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA), according to officials.

The affairs of ZIFA will be managed by an interim normalisation committee until fresh management team elections are held.

In response to apparent government intervention in the operation of the problematic football organization, Zimbabwe was suspended by the international governing body in February 2022.

The Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), ordered the dissolution of ZIFA’s executive committee in November 2021 amid allegations that funds provided to the organization by the state for Zimbabwe’s participation in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals were misappropriated.

Zimbabwe participated in the 2022 World Cup qualifying matches in Qatar, but was not allowed to compete in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying matches in Ivory Coast.

And the Confederation of African Football (CAF) yesterday (Tuesday) confirmed that the draw for the World Cup will be held on Thursday.

In a statement on the official CAF website, the federation said: “The official Draw of the FIFA World Cup 2026™African Preliminaries Qualifiers will be conducted on Thursday, 13 July in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

“The draw will be live on CAF digital platforms and CAFONLINE.com at 15h00 GMT (18h00 Cairo time) – a few hours after the 45th CAF Ordinary Assembly that will also be held in Abidjan.

“For the Draw, the Member Associations of CAF will be divided into nine (9) Groups.

“Winners of each Group will automatically qualify for the FIFA World Cup™ 2026. The four best runners-up (from the Groups) will play in a CAF Play-Off tournament. The winner of the CAF Play-Off Tournament will play in the FIFA Play-off Tournament.”

Nomalisation Committee

Solomon Mudege, the head of FIFA’s African development programs, announced a four-member normalization committee during a press conference held in Harare on Tuesday morning.

The Normalization Committee will be headed by former Dynamos chairman, Lincoln Mutasa, and comprised of the former Highlanders center-back and FIFA graduate, Sikhumbuzo Ndebele, the former captain and coach of the Mighty Warriors, Rosemary Mugadza, and the attorney Nyasha Tashinga Sanyamandwe.

A collaboration agreement between the Ministry of Sport, the SRC, and ZIFA will be established by the committee, outlining the roles and goals of each party, in addition to restructuring the ZIFA administration and managing the organization’s day-to-day operations.

The committee has been given a one-year mandate to manage ZIFA business and oversee election procedures.

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