By Own Correspondent – Harare – Zimbabwean authorities are set to engage their Namibian counterparts to try and mend relations strained by the fallout between the Namibia Football Association and the Zifa leadership over the latter’s secret recruitment of Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet.
The fallout has spilled from the football corridors into the political arena amid concerns by the Zimbabwean political leadership that it was affecting the good relations that have always existed between Zimbabwe and Namibia.
The two countries share strong political connections and have enjoyed a healthy relationship for years and co-operate closely in a number of fields including power and the media.
A Zifa board member told The Southern Times that they had already been advised by the Foreign Affairs Ministry officials in Harare that there was need to mend the damage caused by the fallout over the coach.
‘It’s still the early stage and I can’t give you details but what I can confirm is that there has been contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who are unhappy with the dimension that the fallout has taken, especially its effect on the good relationship between Zimbabwe and Namibia,’ said the Zifa board member who chose not to be identified.
‘The initial briefing appeared to suggest that there was a possibility a delegation could be sent to Namibia to try and mend bridges because we are very good sister countries and this thing has come right out of the blue and caused unnecessary friction.’
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Namibia, Chipo Zindoga, has already written the Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha updating him on the diplomatic challenges posed by the fallout.
‘Our previous correspondences dated 22 and 24 September 2010 on related subject, which were addressed to Secretary of Education, Sport and Culture and copied to you, refer,’ wrote Zindoga.
‘The issue is refusing to die a natural death. This is the reason I am bringing it to your attention. ‘The secretary-general of the Namibia Football Association, Barry Rukoro, has launched an all-out attack against the Zifa board over the ‘poaching’ of Tom Saintfiet as the new Warriors coach.
‘Rukoro, who has declared a war path against Zifa, has indicated that NFA will lodge a formal complaint with Fifa against Zifa for not adhering to the rules of football.
‘NFA will also undertake to claim US$30 000 in compensation before releasing Saintfiet’s termination letter.’
Zindoga also noted a change in stance by the NFA over the issue.
‘While the NFA had previously lumped the blame on the Belgian born coach for breach of contract, the blame has now been shifted to the Zifa board, whom Rukoro is referring to as ‘a leadership of fool’,’ wrote Zindoga.
‘He is further quoted as saying, ‘they think they are untouchables and we are just going to fold our arms just because they are Zimbabweans.’
‘It is clear from the outset that Zifa’s appointment of Saintfiet had caused afurore within Namibia football circles. The latest developments point to intense hostility that, if not handled amicably, will mar the cordial relations existing between the two countries.
‘The Saintfiet issue is certainly assuming political dimensions with far reaching political ramifications, which calls for prudent handling of the matter. ‘To further note is that Rukoro has been successively re-elected to the post of NFA secretary-general, an indicator of his popularity in Namibia. His sentiments are therefore shared by the generality of Namibians.
‘We therefore cannot afford to take the issue lightly.’