THE hawks at the Sports Commission might be hunting for his head but Philip Chiyangwa’s fine romance with FIFA continues to bloom with world football boss, Gianni Infantino, inviting the ZIFA president to the 2018 World Cup final next month.
Relations between Chiyangwa’s ZIFA leadership and the Sports Commission have sharply deteriorated in recent weeks.
ZIFA claim the Commission’s bosses have become part of a cabal battling to dethrone the domestic football leadership and they have been coming up with various charge sheets to try and justify their mission.
Recently, the Commission gave the ZIFA leaders seven days to respond to a number of charges, including alleged non-remittance of levies and failure to furnish them with audited financial statements, or risk the possibility of suspension.
However, the ZIFA leaders say this is part of a grand plot, dubbed the Sandton Project, in which the Sports Commission bosses have gone into bed with those who have been battling to unseat the current football leadership.
But while the relationship between ZIFA and the Sports Commission remains frosty, the domestic football leaders continue to receive the full backing of FIFA who ruled that they will remain in control of the local game until elections are held.
ZIFA have unveiled their election roadmap which will culminate in elections being held for the executive committee in December and they claim this has sparked desperation within the Sports Commission, whom they accuse of wanting to control the process.
Recently, ZIFA vice-president Omega Sibanda and board member in charge of finance, Phil Machana, were in Zurich for the FIFA Congress where they appraised the world football governing body of the underhand moves to destabilise the association.
Chiyangwa did not travel for the FIFA Congress, and the COSAFA Cup final, as he was recovering from eye surgery.
Now, FIFA president Infantino has invited the Harare businessman to Moscow, Russia, next month to be part of the guests — drawn from the leaders of the national associations — to watch the World Cup final.
Infantino specifically addresses Chiyangwa, in his letter, as “ZIFA president,’’ in what is also significant in that it ends the argument, peddled by some social media hawks, who have been claiming that domestic football currently doesn’t have a legitimate leadership because the term of office of those in charge expired at the end of March.
“Mr Philip Chiyangwa, ZIFA president,’’ Infantino writes in his letter penned on Friday. “We both know that the FIFA World cup is much more than a 32-team tournament.
“It is the pinnacle of world football for everyone who loves and takes part in the beautiful game.
“As such, I consider it’s a duty of FIFA to ensure that those who represent football’s worldwide reach — the 211 Member Associations and their presidents — are all present for its crowning moment, the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“Therefore, I would be truly delighted to have you, as president of a Member Association, join me at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on 15 July, when the world champions will be crowned.
“The game’s most prestigious occasion is one to be celebrated in all its splendour. I also take this opportunity to invite you to the celebratory events taking place during the final weekend in Moscow.
“The FIFA World Cup is the most special moment for football and I look forward to spending it in Russia with the game’s most special people. The enclosed document covers all logistical aspects related to your trip and your stay which I trust will be an unforgettable one.
“Our teams are at your full disposal. It will be an honour to celebrate the final of the FIFA World Cup with you.’’
Chiyangwa and Infantino enjoy a very close relationship and the FIFA president graced the ZIFA boss’s belated 58th birthday party in Harare in February last year which also attracted 13 African football leaders.
The party was also held to celebrate Chiyangwa’s rise to become COSAFA boss two months earlier.
However, the then CAF president, Issa Hayatou, was not amused and claimed the occasion was meant to drum up support for his challenger Ahmad Ahmad of Madagascar for the leadership of the game on the continent. Hayatou and his crew then laid various charges against Chiyangwa but those charges were later dropped after the Cameroonian strongman was crushed by Ahmad in the battle for the CAF presidency.