Zifa moves to close Asiagate

HARARE - Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Philip Chiyangwa yesterday revealed that his board will swiftly move to bring an end to the Asigate saga, which had serious financial constraints on the cash-strapped association.

Under Cuthbert Dube’s leadership, over 10 individuals were banned for life after being fingered in the biggest scandal ever to hit Zimbabwean football.

Almost 100 local footballers were found guilty of receiving large sums of money from an illegal Asian betting syndicate between 2007 and 2009 to lose matches by predetermined score-lines.

Zifa then approached Fifa to endorse the bans to have worldwide effect. The world football ruling body, however, turned down Zifa’s request, saying they needed more incriminating evidence to endorse the suspensions.

Fifa was not impressed with the way Zifa investigated or imposed sanctions in the match-fixing saga which revealed that from August 2007 to January 2010 impoverished Zimbabwean players and officials were easy prey for convicted serious match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal and his ring of cronies.

Most of the football players and officials were ordered to pay fines of varying amounts. And while other officials and players’ bans were lifted, it is the future of other individuals fingered in the scam which prompted Chiyangwa and his new board to finalise the issue.

With dates for the association’s meeting yet to be finalised, Chiyangwa has made the Asiagate saga a top priority when it commences.

“In an effort to find closure, I will propose that the issue of reviewing Asiagate sanctions be discussed at our next executive committee meeting,” Chiyangwa said in a statement released on the Zifa website yesterday.

“We understand some players, officials and journalists were banned for their alleged role in the Asiagate scandal. We feel it is prudent to review such sanctions and unite members of the football fraternity.”

Former Warriors players — Method Mwanjali, Thomas Sweswe, Guthrie Zhokinyu and Edmore Sibanda were slapped with life bans after being accused of playing a key role in the scandal but saw their suspensions lifted last year — although no explanation was given on which criteria was used.

Former Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s life ban was also lifted and last season he led ZPC Kariba to a tenth place finish on the log table.

Mwanjali and Sibanda have since re-joined CAPS United while Sweswe was with ZPC Kariba last season. Zhokinyu is still club-hunting and was at some point linked with a return to Dynamos last season.

Chiyangwa assumed Zifa presidency in December last year after receiving an overwhelming seal of approval from Zifa councillors, following a landslide victory that catapulted him to succeed Dube.

With all eyes on Chiyangwa and his board — who have an unenviable task of resurrecting Zimbabwean football which plunged to an all-time low during Dube’s ill-fated reign — so far the Harare businessman seems to have lived to his pledge of reviving the game.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe national soccer team have stepped up preparations for the 2016 African Nations Championship (Chan) finals set for Rwanda later this month.

The fourth edition of the Chan tournament will burst into life in Kigali on January 16 with the hosts taking on Cote d’Ivoire at Amahoro Stadium in the opening game.

The team’s preparations was, however, dealt a blow after five players were released from camp following injuries, ultimately ruling them out of the tournament.

After losing skipper Danny Phiri and goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya earlier, Warriors coach Calisto Pasuwa and his assistants will have to juggle around after midfielder Tafadzwa Kutinyu, defender Teenage Hadebe and striker Hillary Bakacheza were sent home due to different ailments.

Pasuwa had initially called 32 players in camp — now left with 27 players, he is expected to name his 23-men before the team leaves for Rwanda.

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