Hlongwane in ambitious bid to rescue Warriors

HARARE - Newly-appointed Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane has launched an ambitious bid to try and have the Warriors reinstated into the Russia 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

The Warriors were booted out of the competition before even kicking a ball by Fifa following the failure by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) to pay former coach Valinhos.

The Brazilian, who was Warriors coach between February and November 2008 is owed at least $67 000 in unpaid salaries and legal costs.

Since 2012, Fifa pleaded with Zifa to recover the money on behalf of Valinhos but their calls fell on deaf ears.

In the end, the world football governing body was left with no option but to banish the Warriors in an attempt to force Zifa’s hand.

The draw for the qualifiers was held in Russia last June and Zimbabwe was totally excluded in the process.

The first round of the qualifiers for African teams is commencing this weekend but Hlongwane is hopeful their ambitious plan might work out.

“I’m meeting a group of Zimbabwean well-wishers to discuss together with Zifa officials,” said Hlongwane, who was appointed last month to replace Andrew Langa.

“We are discussing the possibility of whether there is a way the Warriors can be reinstated to play in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers.

“We are trying to look at the documents and see how we can apply our minds to engage Fifa so that Zimbabwe can be reinstated into the qualifiers. Obviously, we are bearing in mind the wrongdoing that we did on our part.”

Hlongwane’s bid to have the Warriors reinstated in the competition will be a long shot, considering the long grace period Fifa extended to Zifa to pay up the outstanding balance.

There are also a number of logistical challenges that might arise if Fifa tries to accommodate the Warriors in the qualifiers since the draw had already taken place.   

Zimbabwe is also at risk of being expelled from the Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers because Zifa also owes former coach Tom Saintfiet $150 000.

The Belgian has taken up his matter with Fifa and the Warriors might suffer a similar fate unless his debt is settled.

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