FIFA’s Blatter arrives in Zimbabwe
FIFA’s Sepp Blatter met Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe for
talks Monday after the head of world soccer arrived for a two-day
visit to a country where the game is mired in a match-fixing
Blatter, who arrived earlier in Harare on a private jet,
inspected training facilities that urgently need funding amid
Zimbabwe’s troubled economy, and pledged $1 million over four years
for soccer programs in the country. Another $500,000 will be
provided to support training under the FIFA’s worldwide Goal
”Football is more than kicking a ball,” Blatter said at a news
conference. ”I do not come to Africa to impose European football,
I respect particularities and culture. Africa has more talent than
Brazil but Africa’s talent is not yet developed.”
Blatter had been scheduled to accompany Mugabe to a women’s
international match against regional neighbor Malawi, but officials
said later that Mugabe did not attend because of a scheduling
Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors women’s team beat Malawi 8-2.
An advance party of four FIFA officials, including two
match-fixing investigators, arrived Sunday.
Last year, Zimbabwe captain Method Mwanjali and four team mates
admitted taking money to lose matches on a 2009 tour to Thailand
and Malaysia. Zimbabwe lost 3-0 to Thailand and 6-0 to Syria and
the players said they were paid between $500 and $1,500.
Zimbabwe Sports Minister David Coltart said Monday he hoped the
FIFA team, which includes its head of security Chris Eaton, will
recommend punishment for those found guilty.
”Hopefully FIFA will stick by the (Zimbabwe) government’s
determination to deal with corruption,” Coltart told The
Associated Press. ”We expect them to endorse that there has been
criminality and prosecution must follow.”
Mugabe told the state broadcaster on the steps of his official
State House offices he was ”honored” by Blatter’s visit.
”It is a great visit from the most powerful man in soccer. We
hope a bit of his power remains with us,” said the 87-year-old
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.
Blatter then met with children training on a soccer field
Coach Matthew Makuwerere said the sport lacked training
facilities, adding that it had long stifled young people’s dreams
of becoming professional players.
”We hope player development we have been wishing for will now
be realized,” he said.
Eaton is scheduled to meet with Coltart, police commanders and
the state Sports and Recreation Commission – all of whom have
assisted administrators in probing the match-fixing in 2009, known
in local football circles as ”Asiagate.”
Zimbabwe FA chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said Eaton
will study corruption reports that have been compiled by his
organization. He also said the national body will be guided by FIFA
on prosecution and any life bans on players and a member of the
coaching team who accepted money.
Punishments for the Zimbabwe players could be part of a new wave
of crackdowns on match-fixing in world soccer. Similar
investigations are also under way in Finland, Italy, Greece and, at
a lower level, in Malaysia and South Africa.
”We can’t intervene in the early stages of investigations but
when offenders are found guilty they will be suspended or banned
for life,” Blatter said.