By Andrew Warshaw
August 15 – One of Gianni Infantino’s staunchest allies, former Zimbabwe FA (ZIFA) boss Philip Chiyangwa, has been banned for life by his own federation for “bringing Zimbabwean football into disrepute.”
In a statement ZIFA accused Chiyangwa, one of African football’s most charismatic yet controversial figures, of “unilaterally submitting an incomplete bid document” to host this year’s Cosafa Cup “without getting a government guarantee.” ZIFA has also handed a permanent ban to Chiyangwa’s assistant, Omega Sibanda.
In May Zimbabwe were slapped with a $50,000 fine and a conditional suspension for their failure to honour an agreement to host this year’s edition of the tournament, which is for Southern Africa’s 14 teams. Zimbabwe, who were the holders, were found guilty by the regional body of reneging on their hosting rights following a last-minute withdrawal. The tournament was instead hosted by South Africa.
Last month, Zimbabwe was suspended from competing at next year’s event too after failing to comply with a deadline to commit to host that as well.
Chiyangwa, who lost his position as ZIFA president last December, is still technically president of Cosafa but will no longer be allowed to attend any Zifa-sanctioned matches, meetings, conferences or any football related activity in the country.
He has long been a supporter of Infantino and it will be interesting to see whether FIFA, as it normally does in national federation sanctions of this severity, follows suit in banning Chiyangwa worldwide.
Being endorsed by Chiyangwa when he ran for re-election hardly represented a vote of confidence for Infantino given that Chiyangwa had been ousted by his own federation. Shortly before the ZIFA elections that got rid of him, Zimbabwe’s Anti-Corruption Commission was asked to investigate claims of “corruption, fraud, misappropriation, abuse of power, misconduct and lack of good corporate governance.”
He was also accused of using dirty tricks to win the elections that ushered him into office in December 2015.
Chiyangwa was a key figure in the election campaign that brought Confederation of African Football president Ahmad Ahmad, now increasingly under scrutiny following a string of mismanagement allegations, to power. Unconfirmed reports said that in the build-up to Ahmad’s victory over Issa Hayatou, Infantino personally attended a party hosted by Chiyangwa who was apparently at one time described by the FIFA president as “my friend and brother”.
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