Zim football edges closer to return

Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) chairman Gerald Mlotshwa

THE world football governing body, Fifa, are expected to come to the rescue of Zimbabwe's World Cup hopes as the African draw of the competition draws close.

Caf has set July 12 in Cotonou, Benin, the night before the 45th Caf ordinary general assembly as the date for the World Cup draw.

And with just about three weeks remaining, the country is anxiously waiting for Fifa to make an announcement following their high profile visit to Zimbabwe in April.

It was reported that there was a general interest from Fifa, Caf and Cosafa delegations who visited Zimbabwe on a fact-finding mission for the lifting of the country's suspension and participation in Cosafa and World Cup events.

However, a normalisation committee to oversee the running of the sport was seen as the best solution towards fixing the country's football woes.

Already, the country has missed out on the Cosafa competition as Fifa continues to make key consultations before making a decision on Zimbabwe.

But StandardSport is reliably informed that Fifa is in the process of finalising a normalisation committee to run Zifa and pave way for elections, which they will announce inside the next two weeks along with the lifting of the suspension.

Zimbabwe is expected to be part of the Africa World Cup draw whose matches are scheduled to start mid-November.

Three weeks ago, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) chairman Gerald Mlotshwa  told this publication that it was only a matter of time before Fifa comes up with a position on the  Zifa case.

“Things are progressing very well. Presently Fifa and SRC are involved in finalising documented terms that will form the basis of resolving the Zifa situation — it’s more a matter of dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the‘t’s now. Once that document has been finalised, which will probably be this week, I will need to brief my minister (Kirsty Coventry) before implementing what is in effect a term sheet,” Mlotshwa said then.

But to date there is still no communication from Fifa, fueling genuine fear that Zimbabwe may miss out on the World Cup, a development which could have shattering impact on the current crop of Warriors players.

As it stands Zimbabwe teams have missed out on a number of international competitions including Caf and Cosafa since the country's suspension from Fifa in February last year.

However, well informed sources told Standardsport that both Caf and Fifa are keen to have Zimbabwe participate in the World Cup qualifiers and have since made efforts to speed up the processes.

"Zimbabwe will certainly take part in the World Cup draw and Fifa is aware of those dates so they should announce the lifting of the suspension in the next two weeks. The process of coming up with a normalisation committee cannot be hurried, but requires due diligence," the source said.

"All the football bodies Fifa, Caf and Cosafa expressed the desire to see Zimbabwe immediately return to international football and that will inevitably happen soon enough. The country must expect the good news anytime soon," it said.

Last month Caf announced a new format for the qualifiers of the 2026 Fifa World Cup, following the decision by Fifa to increase Africa’s quota from five to nine direct tickets.

Caf's 54 members are going to be divided into nine groups of six teams each with the matches played on a round robin basis.

The top teams from the groups will earn an automatic qualification to the 2026 World Cup to be hosted by the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Four best placed runners up  will enter into a Continental play-off to determine one winner who will then proceed to a second and final play-off which will include six teams from the other different confederations.

The top two of these six will qualify for the World Cup to make up the 48 teams.

Match day one and two fixtures for the World Cup qualifiers are scheduled to be played between November 13 and 2.


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