ZIMBABWE have been afforded another opportunity to put their house in order after being included in next week’s 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifying group stage draw.

Zimbabwe and Kenya are currently suspended from participating in any international football competitions following Fifa’s decision to punish their respective federations for “third party interference” in the running of the federations.

However, the Warriors and the Harambee Stars were handed a lifeline, after the Confederation of Africa Football (Caf) included the two nations in the draw for the qualifying group stage, which is set to take place on April 19 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

For the Afcon 2023 draw procedure, Zimbabwe are in pot three while Kenya are placed in pot two.

But according to goal.com Caf has since put in place stringent conditions for the two countries for them to be allowed to participate ahead of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, which are scheduled to start in June later this year.

“Reference to the suspension of Zimbabwe and Kenya by Fifa from all football activities, in case the suspension is not lifted two weeks before their first matchday of their qualifiers; both associations will be considered as losers and eliminated from the competition,” a Caf letter said.

“Consequently, their groups will be composed of three teams. The first and the runners-up from those groups will qualify for the final tournament.

“Consequently, the two teams (Kenya and Zimbabwe) cannot be drawn in the same group in order to avoid having one group with two teams in case suspension for both associations is not limited.”

Fifa suspended Zimbabwe from all international football activities after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended the Felton Kamambo- led board over “several incidents of gross incompetence” that the SRC described as “contrary to the national interest.”

In addition to alleged mismanagement and lack of accountability in the use of public funds, the SRC also cited allegations of sexual harassment of female referees.

The SRC was initially given a deadline of January 3 by Fifa to relinquish control of football back to Zifa. That demand, however, was not met, with the defiant SRC appointing a nine-member “restructuring committee.”

The development saw Fifa impose a suspension on Zimbabwe on February 24, which was upheld by the Fifa council at the end of last month.

Fifa wants the Kamambo-led board to be reinstated and allowed to finish its tenure as in line with the Zifa constitution.

Fifa said the grievances the SRC had with the suspended Zifa board shouldn’t have warranted a suspension as this was tantamount to government interference — a rule that Fifa hold sacrosanct and has consistently applied in such circumstances.

The world governing body disapproves of governmental interference in the running of member associations. 

As a result of the Fifa ban, Zimbabwe cannot participate in any Fifa-sanctioned football activities and will also lose its rights to grants.

Though the ban has turned Zimbabwe into a pariah football state, the SRC continues to dig in their heels over the reinstatement of the suspended Zifa board.  

The “restructuring committee” they appointed has already rolled out its programme.

The committee, which is chaired by lawyer Blessing Rugara and has members gleaned from diverse sectors, is mandated to review the game’s structures, including the Zifa constitution.

Zifa acting secretary-general Xolisani Gwesela could not be drawn into commenting on the latest development. – Daily News