Zimbabwe is free again. The 17-month suspension imposed by FIFA came to an end on Monday 10 July. Now it's time to start preparing for the rebirth of football.
Liberated, delivered. Zimbabwe can well afford to sing this refrain. They have just finished serving his 17-month sentence. In February 2022, FIFA imposed this sentence because of the government's interference in football-related affairs. This led to his elimination from the qualifiers for the 2023 African Cup of Nations and the 2024 Women's African Cup of Nations, among others. The Zimbabweans can now get back into the dance. The aim is to qualify for the 2026 World Cup. The suspension was lifted by FIFA on Monday 10 July. However, FIFA ordered that a "normalisation committee" be set up to manage the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA). This will continue until a new board of directors is elected.
Kirsty Coventry, Zimbabwe's Minister of Sport, is relishing this return to favour. "I know that many have judged us very harshly for the decision we made, but the way our football was run was very much dependent on what the administrators wanted and was only to their advantage," she tells BBC Sport Africa.
"We have the opportunity to build and rebuild a solid foundation that sees all stakeholders thrive - our fans, young players, female and male players, come together, unite. It was hard, but it was worth it, to have a way forward that will benefit us as a country - 110% it was worth it." Zimbabwe back...but without a stadium So Zimbabwe can get on with playing official football competitions again. In a letter signed by its General Secretary Fatma Samoura, FIFA confirms that all the lights are green. The only drawback is that the Zimbabweans do not currently have an approved stadium. As a result, they will have to play their home matches abroad. But Kirsty Coventry assures us that the National Sports Stadium in Harare will be renovated to meet international standards.
However, until everything is sorted out, the mood in Zimbabwe is one of joy.Coventry is well aware of this.For her, this nine-month purge will be the starting point for a renaissance."When we win tournaments, we'll all say it was worth that little window of pain.Read also: Marshall Munetsi, more than a footballer