In surprising news, Zimbabwe have been expelled from the 2018 World Cup preliminary qualifiers for failing to pay former coach Jose Claudinei Georgini.
Football’s world governing body Fifa said in a statement that it had taken the action “as a result of the non-payment of an outstanding debt”.Fifa added that Zimbabwe’s Football Association (Zifa) failed to make the payments despite being given a grace period. In April 2013, ZIFA was given 60 days to pay half the amount it owed Claudinei, and 120 days to pay the full amount. Zimbabwe was given a final grace period to settle the debt before being banned, Fifa said on Thursday in their statement.
Zifa communications manager Xolisani Gwesela said that the body would appeal against the ruling.
Zimbabwe, who have never qualified for a World Cup, have to act quickly because the draw for the African zone qualifiers for the tournament in Russia will take place in July, with matches set to kick off in October.
Zifa is in dire financial trouble, with debts of more than US$4m (£2.7m), and was recently forced to auction assets from its Fifa-financed training centre to settle a legal dispute with a former employee.
The financial problems date back a long way and when Georgini was appointed in 2008 it was announced that the Brazilian’s salary would be paid by the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority as part of a 2010 World Cup memorandum of understanding between the tourism body and Zifa. The coach signed a one-year deal, only receiving his salary for the first six months of his tenure which was paid by the Tourism Authority.
The rest of the wage bill was supposed to be picked up by Zifa, but the coach was fired after a dismal 2010 Afcon and World Cup campaign without receiving the balance of his salary.
The ban came on the day the 2018 qualifiers started with Bhutan, ranked 209 (last) in the world, won their first ever World Cup qualifier, beating Sri Lanka 1-0.