Minister of Youth, Sport and Child Development Emmanuel Mulenga says he is disappointed that the much anticipated meeting with FIFA to help resolve the stand-off in local football could not take off on Tuesday.
Mulenga says the development is a huge setback in terms of making progress in the development of local football whose administrators have been at daggers drawn since the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) announced its roadmap for the elective annual general meeting, originally set for March 28 but delayed because of court actions, the coronavirus pandemic and now possibly the postponed meeting.
FIFA had originally proposed Tuesday for the meeting with the aggrieved party who had taken matters to court but withdrew them on the understanding that the world soccer governing body will chair a meeting to iron out contentious issues.
However, with the notice arriving only a few days before the meeting, the aggrieved party requested for a delay, proposing to have the meeting tomorrow or any other day deemed suitable.
That request for an adjustment met resistance from the FAZ general secretary Adrian Kashala who insisted that the meeting should go on as scheduled, arguing that in any case the aggrieved party had previously complained of a delay in convening the meeting.
The FAZ GS, his president Andrew Kamanga, the Minister of Sport, National Sports Council of Zambia (NSCZ) chairman Patrick Mutimushi and a FIFA representative are said to have logged in to zoom in readiness for the meeting.
However, the aggrieved party did not, not only because they had asked for a postponement, but also because they had not been furnished with any log-in derails, according to one of their lawyers, Gilbert Phiri of PNP Advocates.
In an interview yesterday (Wednesday), Mulenga said he was set for the Zoom meeting on Tuesday just like FAZ and local sports mother body NSCZ.
He wondered why the aggrieved party asked for a postponement when they had at one time threatened to take the matter back to the courts of law, citing a delay in setting up the date for the meeting.
“The meeting was finally set and as minister in charge of sport, though out in the field attending to youth matters, I made sure that where I was I had internet connection so that I could join in,” Mulenga said.
“It is therefore disappointing that the aggrieved party were not ready prompting FIFA to reschedule the meeting. This is not good. We need to clear off this impasse and move forward and enter 2021 on a new page.”
“For the aggrieved party, one wonders why they could not present the same information they wanted to go to court before this meeting. Again, it’s the same party which had threatened to take back the matter to court if the meeting was not arranged, and now this.”
Mulenga said it is not fair for people to continue dragging the matter instead of making progress for the good of the sport.
He said people should realise that if Zambia was banned today from international competitions by FIFA, it is not officials who will suffer but many youths who are making a living through football.
“This is not a personal matter but let us for once put the country’s interest first by concluding this issue amicably,” he said.
“Most of the players are under-35 and as minister in charge of the youths, I need to protect them by ensuring that we do not attract any ban.”
Mulenga also said that government enjoys a cordial relationship with FIFA which they want to carry on forward.
He said government therefore is looking forward to a new date for the meeting that FIFA will set.
Mulenga said he will find time to meet with the aggrieved party to chart the way forward.