Warriors WC bid remains in limbo

HARARE - With less than 15 days to go before the Russia 2018 World Cup preliminary draw, Zimbabwe’s participation in the qualifiers is looking less unlikely.

The Warriors were expelled from the qualifiers by Fifa in March after the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) failed to pay former coach Valinhos.

Zimbabwe can only be readmitted into the qualifiers after paying the Brazilian coach close to $100 000 he is owed dating back to the days he was Warriors coach in 2008. However, with the draw for the preliminary round set for at the Konstantinovsky Palace in Strelna, Saint Petersburg, Russia, the Warriors might kiss their participation goodbye.

Yesterday, Fifa outlined the procedure for the draw which will see 26 of Africa’s lowest ranked teams going into the hat with the exception of Zimbabwe.

“With Zimbabwe having been expelled from the preliminary competition by the Fifa Disciplinary Committee, Africa sees 53 of its 54 member associations involved in the Preliminary Draw,” said Fifa.

“For Round One, the 26 lowest-ranked participating associations from the region will contest Round One. Those teams will be allocated to two pots of 13 teams based on the Fifa/Coca-Cola World Ranking of July 2015; the 13 highest ranked teams and the 13 lowest ranked teams.

“They will then be drawn against each other to play over two legs on a home and away basis between 5 and 13 October 2015.

“The winners of those matches advance to Round Two, where they will join the remaining 27 highest-ranked teams from the region and face off in another two-legged play off, home and away.

“The winners of these games then move into Africa’s final qualification round where five groups of four teams will meet both home and away. The winner of each group will qualify for Russia 2018.”

If the Warriors fail to play in the Russia 2018 World Cup qualifiers it will be a nadir for local football.

It will also be a great indictment on the Zifa leadership for allowing the situation reach such an aberration.

When the news of Zimbabwe’s expulsion broke back in March, a section of Zifa councillors agreed to organise an Emergency Assembly Meeting to discuss the matter.

The councillors met to discuss the matter on May 16 and among other resolutions voted to boot out president Cuthbert Dube.

Zifa vice president Omega Sibanda and treasurer Bernard Gwarada together with 12 councillors were, however, suspended for attending the meeting after Dube was reinstated by Fifa.

While Sibanda and Gwarada were ostracised for attending the meeting, at least they appeared to be taking this matter seriously.

Now Zifa will only hold their belated AGM on July 25, the same day other football nations will be waiting eagerly to see what pans out in Saint Petersburg for the 2018 World Cup draw.

Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said: “The board is currently seized with the matter. They are working around the clock to make sure the money is paid before the draw and Zimbabwe will be readmitted for the qualifiers.”

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