Ngqwele Dube Sports Correspondent
FORMER Njube Sundowns, Railstars and Highlanders player Danisa Phiri heaved a huge sigh of relief after Zifa rescinded a life ban that had been imposed on him for his alleged involvement in the Asiagate match fixing scandal. In an interview soon after he was notified of the development, the diminutive player said life had turned upside down for him as football was his only source of livelihood.
Zifa’s lead prosecutor Ralph Maganga confirmed they had cleared Phiri after interviews with him confirmed that he did not travel for some of the matches that he had initially been alleged to have taken part in.
Maganga said Phiri came with his passport which indicated that he did not travel for certain games hence they could not bring him to a hearing.
“We wrote to the Zifa Board and recommended that Phiri be cleared of any charges after he brought his passport and proved that he did not travel for certain matches which he had earlier been accused of being involved in. We realised it would be futile for us to call him for a hearing because of the conclusive proof he brought during the interview,” he said.
Maganga also disclosed that former Dynamos centre back Guthrie Zhokinyi and former Zifa vice-president and referee, Kenny Marange have also been absolved from involvement in the match fixing scandal.
Phiri (36) maintained his innocence during earlier hearings held by Zifa through various bodies including the Ahmed Ibrahim committee and investigations led by then vice-president Ndumiso Gumede.
The utility player, who was assistant coach at Quelaton, when the bans were announced in October 2012 insisted he had not travelled to Bulgaria, China and the Cecafa tournament held in Kenya and it appears it was a case of mistaken identity as Chicken Inn’s Danny Phiri who was with Bantu Rovers travelled as part of development teams to those three destinations.
Phiri said he would sit down and map the way forward with his football career and did not rule out going back into the field although he would also focus on attaining coaching badges.
“It was a nightmare for me because despite repeated efforts that I made to have my name cleared I had to go around with this heavy burden weighing me down. I believe I could be far ahead in my career but I will continue from where I am and get my football life back on track.
“I think Zifa were grossly negligent in my case and I would not be out of line if I seek compensation because I clearly told them from the start I did not attend some of the games but they never bothered to consider my statement,” said Phiri.
Football Union of Zimbabwe secretary general, Paul Gundani weighed in saying while Phiri’s clearance was a welcome decision Zifa will have to consider compensation because of the shoddy way they handled his case.
“Players had their careers halted just like that depriving them of crucial income, imagine they had to start looking elsewhere as they sought to provide for their families and right now to know where to start is another issue.
“I think Zifa should seriously consider compensation in one way or the other for lost income. He (Phiri) clearly stated he did not travel to some of the matches but he was still given the harshest form of punishment. Certainly the player cannot just be grateful for having been cleared when he lost opportunities to further his career during the period,” said Gundani.
Zifa is eager to close the chapter on the Asiagate scandal that saw the national team travelling to various countries in Asia and being bribed to throw away games by convicted match fixer Raj Perumal.
The latest development follows the clearance of former Warriors coach, Sunday Chidzambwa and goalkeeper, Edmore Sibanda in April and March respectively.