Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIFA yesterday said they would need to study the judgment from COSAFA after the country was slapped with a US$50 000 fine and a conditional suspension from the tournament for their failure to honour an agreement to host this year’s edition of the COSAFA CUP.
Zimbabwe were yesterday found guilty of contract breach by the organisation’s Disciplinary Committee following a last-minute withdrawal from hosting this year’s edition of the regional competition.
ZIFA risked heavy fines of up to $1 million and an effective ban, but they escaped with a lighter sentence after the regional body’s Disciplinary Committee set aside an additional US$150 000 fine on condition that the association provides Government guarantees within the next two months to host the 2020 edition.
Zimbabwe — who are the holders of the COSAFA Cup — were also allowed to defend their crown at the tournament that will now be hosted by South Africa beginning at the end of this month in Durban.
The draw for the tournament will be held on the Soccer Africa magazine show on SuperSport 4 tonight.
“ZIFA have received a conditional suspension from COSAFA, but can remedy the situation within two months if they confirm the country as hosts of the 2020 COSAFA Cup, and provide the already signed guarantees from the Zimbabwe Government to this effect.
“Failure to do so will see the association suspended, though the two-month grace period will allow the national team to compete in the 2019 COSAFA Cup in Durban, South Africa, from May 25 to June 8.
“ZIFA have also been fined US$50 000, with a further amount of US$150 000 suspended until the above condition over 2020 hosting has been met,” read the statement from COSAFA.
However, acting ZIFA vice president Phillemon Machana yesterday said the board will seek to engage the Government on the way forward.
ZIFA withdrew from hosting the tournament after the Government, through the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, indicated they had not been given enough time to produce the required guarantees for a successful tournament.
But ZIFA had already made a Hosting Agreement with COSAFA and, as a result, the association was dragged to the COSAFA Disciplinary Body chaired by Antonio Caetano de Sousa last month.
The committee included Football Association of Zambia secretary-general Adrian Kashala and Malawian football administrator Daud Suleman.
“We have just received the judgment today and we are still studying it. It will be early to comment on it because we would still need to sit down as an executive to discuss it.
“Some of the conditions in the judgment also involve our stakeholders like the Government who will guide us because they are the ones who give the guarantees.
“The positive thing, however, is that at some stage the ministry (of Sport) highlighted they had wanted time to prepare for the tournament. So the commitment from the Government has always been there, but what I am not sure of is whether we can push them to produce the guarantees within the next two months.
“It’s a process that involves a lot of considerations like the infrastructure, logistics and the resources. But the bottom line is that we want to work with COSAFA, the Government and all the stakeholders to make sure football will be the winner at the end of the day,” said Machana.
This year’s COSAFA Cup provides an excellent opportunity for the Warriors and three other countries from the region – Angola, Namibia, South Africa – that have qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations finals to prepare for the continental football show-piece set for next month in Egypt.
Madagascar, who have also qualified for AFCON finals, are the only team from the 14 COSAFA countries who have declined an invitation for 2019 and they have been replaced by guests Uganda.
The Cranes have qualified for back-to-back continental championships and will provide an exciting extra dimension to the field in Durban. They are in the same group with Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and hosts Egypt at the AFCON finals.
The format for the COSAFA Cup competition will be the same as in the previous years, with the eight lowest-ranked sides to be drawn into two pools each containing four sides.
The top two teams in those pools will advance to the quarter-finals where they will meet the six higher-ranked nations.
The six seeded sides are Botswana, Lesotho, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and defending champions Zimbabwe.
The four quarter-final winners advance to the Cup semi-finals, while the losing teams will drop into the Plate competition, which provides extra matches for those teams.