Johannesburg . — Zambia say they are on standby to play at the Africa Cup of Nations should Zimbabwe be banned by football’s world governing body ahead of Sunday’s start of the competition.
Last month, FIFA said a ban “may have to be imposed on” Zimbabwe unless the elected FA regained control of the sport from a government-appointed organisation by January 3.
This has not happened, meaning Zambia are theoretically in line to contest the finals since they finished behind Zimbabwe in their Nations Cup qualifying group.
“We have followed keenly the development in Zimbabwe and have always remained open to being part of the Nations Cup if Zimbabwe is banned,” Sidney Mungala, the Zambian FA’s media officer, told BBC Sport Africa.
“Given the length of the time before the tournament kicks off, we would have hoped that this matter would have been resolved by now.”
Zambia missed out on reaching the Nations Cup by a single point, when finishing third behind second-placed Zimbabwe in a qualifying group topped by defending champions Algeria.
Nations Cup regulations state that any team that withdraws “after its qualification in the final tournament, but before its actual start, shall be replaced by the team classified next in the group” (Article 86).
The alternative, which could be pertinent given the late nature of any potential ban, is that “in default, the group to which belongs the forfeiting team shall be composed of three teams” (as last happened in 2010).
The FIFA deadline of January 3 for the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), the body mandated to develop Zimbabwean sport by the Government, to hand back control to ZIFA has passed without such an event occurring.
FIFA disapproves of governmental interference in the running of member associations and has banned countries from all forms of football as a result in the past.
The next step is for football’s governing body to refer the SRC’s refusal to hand back control to the “Bureau of FIFA Council for consideration and decision” although it is unclear when the council will next meet.
Zimbabwe are set to contest Group B alongside Senegal, who they play on January 10, ahead of further clashes with Malawi and Guinea. — BBC Sport Africa.