Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
ZIFA Referees Committee chief instructor, Tabani Mnkantjo’s alleged involvement in the Centralgate scandal has returned to haunt him after Fifa denied him permission to attend a Futuro III Referee Instructors course that was held last month in South Africa.
Mnkantjo’s name was forwarded by Zifa as their nominee for the technical part of the course but Fifa wrote back to the mother body stating they would not be accepting the former referee due to “integrity questions”.
Impeccable sources at Zifa told Sunday News that Fifa asked the country’s football controlling body to come up with a replacement.
Mnkantjo was fingered in the Centralgate scam that saw several top officials both in administration and referees being handed varying lengths of suspensions and bans.
The scandal saw a cartel of referees and officials allegedly colluding to fix matches in the Central Region in 2011 as they sought to influence the championship race.
Zimbabwe Referees Committee vice-chairman, Gladmore Muzambi confirmed the development saying they had forwarded Mnkantjo’s name as Zimbabwe’s candidate for the referees instructors’ course but Fifa had written to them raising concern of the former referee’s integrity. The course ran from 22 to 27 October in Johannesburg.
“Fifa cited his involvement in questionable acts saying it would be inappropriate for someone with such a history to stand in front of referees and teach them. Integrity is now an important element and that could have had a hand in the decision,” he said.
Muzambi said they sent in two names to Fifa for consideration of a replacement and the football body chose Phibion Ngwerume, who then attended the six-day course in Johannesburg.
He said they will continue to work with Mnkantjo but Fifa’s response obviously presents them with a difficulty in terms of how the association will allow the continued involvement of Mnkanjto in the refereeing structure.
“I think that is a matter that we will have to look at as a committee and then make a decision going forward on how to handle the issue. We chose him to do that course because he is our chief instructor and it is natural that he should be equipped with more knowledge but it was an unfortunate loss for him. As a committee, we feel empowering Ngwerume will enable him to fulfil our mandate of training able match officials,” he said.
Ngwerume attended the course with Masakadza Makonese who attended the physical fitness section of the instructor’s course.
He said they will act as regional instructors and already been earmarked to conduct a Level Two referees course.
The Centralgate scandal saw several administrators and match officials being suspended after being accused of being involved in a ring that fixed matches involving the now defunct clubs Hardbody and Tripple B the Central Soccer League in 2011.
According to findings by Zifa Mnkantjo, who had just retired from match officiating, allegedly acted as a link between one of the teams and match officials who were being asked to influence the results.
The saga sucked in some regional officials in the Central Region and Southern Region. Zifa’s administration under Philip Chiyangwa however decided to remove all the bans and suspensions that had been had to officials for involvement the scandal in 2016, allowing them to come back into football.