Zimbabwe reinstated in FIFA competitions after 18-month ban

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Zimbabwe’s national football team, affectionately known as the Warriors, is set to return to international competitions after FIFA lifted an 18-month suspension on the country’s governing body, the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA).

The global football governing body imposed the ban on ZIFA in February 2022, citing perceived government interference in the organisation’s operation, a violation of FIFA’s policies. The sanctions followed an order by Zimbabwe’s Sports and Recreation Commission in November 2021 for the ZIFA executive committee to be disbanded due to allegations of misappropriation of funds intended for the Warriors’ participation at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.

In the wake of this sanction, the Warriors were precluded from participating in the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying campaign alongside Kenya. Consequently, two groups were left with just three nations each, a rarity in football tournaments.

Nevertheless, the tides have shifted favourably for Zimbabwe, which is now confirmed to take part in the draw for the 2026 World Cup qualifiers. This eagerly awaited draw will take place for African teams in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast’s capital, this Thursday.

The lifting of the ban will undoubtedly be welcome news for Shepherd Murape’s side. The national team saw its scheduled double-headers against Morocco, South Africa, and Liberia cancelled between June 2022 and September 2023 as a result of the suspension. This decision marked a disappointing period for the team, impacting both their international ranking and the morale of the players.

Zimbabwean football fans will eagerly anticipate the first round of World Cup qualification fixtures, which are scheduled for November. This return to the global stage presents a significant opportunity for the Warriors to rebuild their international reputation and revitalize Zimbabwean football.

The reinstatement of Zimbabwe is a potent reminder of FIFA’s dedication to its ethical standards and of the need for transparent governance in football associations worldwide. As the Warriors prepare to take to the pitch, there is a sense of hope that the lessons learnt will be used to ensure a brighter and more accountable future for football in Zimbabwe.

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