FIFA Ban 'Will Affect Present And Future Generations' Of Zimbabwean Footballers
Zimbabwean footballers including rookies and established professionals plying their trade in Europe’s best leagues have expressed their frustration over the country’s continued suspension from international football.
In November last year, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), a government body that controls sports in the country, removed Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) President Felton Kamambo and his entire executive.
SRC accused the ZIFA board of corruption, maladministration and sexual harassment of female match officials.
Early this year, Zimbabwe was expelled from the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers after the SRC refused to comply with a FIFA directive to reinstate the ZIFA officials.
It remains unclear when Zimbabwe will play international football again.
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Speaking to Al Jazeera recently, 19-year-old Bill Antonio, who flew out for a month-long trial with Belgian club KV Mechelen last week, said:
The ban closed opportunities for us young players. It slowed down things in terms of marketing ourselves out there because international football is where everyone is noticed.
It’s an opportunity missed indeed because the more opportunities to play international football, the greater your profile becomes.
AFC Bournemouth defender, Jordan Zemura (22), told Al Jazeera said he was gutted by the suspension.
Zemura, a roving wing-back, who played a significant role in Bournemouth’s promotion to the English Premier League, was part of the Warriors squad at the 2021 AFCON finals.
Zemura, who has been capped six times by Zimbabwe, arrived late in Cameroon for the tournament and only played one full game for the Warriors. He said:
I’m gutted that we won’t be able to have the chance to qualify [for AFCON].
I’m hoping that things can be resolved as playing for my country is everything to me. Missing these tournaments and opportunities hurt.
Meanwhile, SRC chairman Gerald Mlotshwa, told Al Jazeera that they “expected the ban” from FIFA. He said:
There was an obvious disappointment from some quarters, especially the football fans who just want to see the Warriors playing.
But I think that they, too, will come to appreciate that the suspension is for the long-term benefit of the game in Zimbabwe.
Marshall Munetsi (26), a midfielder at French side Reims, said the ban will negatively affect the present and future generations of footballers. He said:
Missing AFCON is a very big disappointment to the players and fans.
I missed out on the last tournament because of injury and then not being able to represent my country again is even more disappointing.
The future of our football is clouded in uncertainty because we have no clue of what’s going on. Everyone is concerned with how the situation was handled.
The current generation, and those that will come, will lose big opportunities to chase their dreams and change their lives through football.
Mlotshwa, however, seemingly doesn’t feel players’ pain and believes time away from international football will help Zimbabwean football in the long run. He said:
In a sense, the suspension – not a ban – has allowed everyone to focus on the reform process without the distraction of the [AFCON] qualifiers.
More: Al Jazeera