THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) could pay dearly for a botched expansion of the Northern Region Division One league that might compel a Kariba team to seek legal recourse.
Kariba Tigers could be forced to table a billion-dollar lawsuit against the perennially cash-strapped Zifa, who offered the team a Northern Region Division One franchise for $13,5 million as the association sought to expand the league to 22 teams from 20.
The other new slot was sold to Pam, a Banket-based team.
The other two Division One regions, Eastern and Southern, have successfully expanded to 22 teams.
Trouble started at the onset of the 2005 season two weeks ago when fixtures that initially included Tigers and Pam were revised — without notice — to exclude the two newcomers.
Tigers had travelled 365km to Harare for what was supposed to be their Division One debut against NYD Pneumatics a fortnight ago only to be told they had been excluded from the league programme, according to a club official.
Match officials who had been assigned to handle the fixture initially gave the match to Tigers on a walkover basis after NYD refused to play arguing that they had been advised to rather play Douglas Warriors, who had also pitched up at the same venue.
A Zifa official is said to have sanctioned the NYD-Douglas Warriors match to go ahead, leaving Tigers in the cold.
“We were left confused because Zifa insisted we were part of the league, while the Northern Region board refused to have us playing,” Tigers chairman Joseph Chivhinge told IndependentSport yesterday.
Tigers, however, participated in the elections that ushered in the same Northern Region executive that now says they can’t be part of the league.
Tigers sought clarification on their position and future with Zifa chairman Rafiq Khan last week, but they are still to get a response as Division One action gets into the third week tomorrow.
Tigers’ plight got worse this week when the Mashonaland West Division Two, in which they finished second last year, said the Kariba side’s place had already been taken up by another club.
Another Tigers official said Zifa’s “arrogance and remorselessness” might force the club to resort to legal recourse, which they hope will compensate for the “emotional stress” and expenses they have incurred.
“We were hoping there would be no need to recover all the costs we’ve incurred but we might have to take the case to our lawyers because Zifa has responded to our plight by being silent,” Chivhinge said, confirming his club’s intentions.
Besides the franchise fees, Tigers claim they splashed millions to lure top players and also spent a fortune on new kits, training equipment and pre-season camping in preparation for what would have been a dream debut in Division One.
For their journey to the ill-fated Harare fixture, Tigers paid $8 million for a coach and $5 million on camping costs.
There are fears a sponsor who had pledged to bankroll the Kariba team might backtrack if Zifa fails to resolve the issue as soon as possible.
Khan was not reachable for comment, while Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze’s mobile phone went unanswered.
Efforts to contact any of the Northern Region executive members also proved fruitless.