Ngqwele Dube Sports Correspondent
FORMER national men’s football team coach, Tom Saintfiet has agreed to Zifa’s payment plan that would see the football association pay $185 000 owed to him in three tranches despite initially demanding a full once-off payment. Saintfiet signed a four-year contract with Zifa in October 2010 but was deported less than two days into his job for taking up his duties without a work permit. He had absconded from his Namibian job as national team head coach.
Zifa president, Philip Chiyangwa said they had communicated the payment plan to Saintfiet through his lawyers and they had convinced him to accept the schedule.
The Belgian coach, who is now in charge of the Togolese national team, wrote to Chiyangwa on Christmas Day thanking him for quickly working towards the settling of his dues.
“I would like to give my appreciation to you for your handling of my case urgently since you took over the Zifa presidency. This shows your devotion to your new post and I am convinced you will lead Zimbabwean football to greater heights,” said Saintfiet in correspondence to Chiyangwa.
The Zifa president said he had made calls to Saintfiet’s lawyers and they had reached a common understanding despite earlier demands that Zifa settles the debt by the end of January.
In emails written to Zifa on 21 December, the Belgian’s legal representative, Wouter Lambrecht had indicated that “Saintfiet is happy to see that things are finally moving a bit, however, during my discussions with him I had to convince Saintfiet, who wanted the full-payment at once, to consider to offer Zifa the possibility to benefit from a payment schedule in instalments.
“Following long discussions, Saintfiet is now willing to consider a payment schedule in installments, provided that the payments are undertaken as following: US$80 000 by no later than 23 December 2015, US$55 000 by no later than 31 January 2016, US$50 000 by no later than 31 January 2016,”
However, in an interview yesterday, Chiyangwa said he had further engaged Saintfiet’s lawyers who had agreed to their initial plan of paying
$50 000 first and then another $50 000 being made in January and $80 000 in March.
“We are happy he has agreed to our plan and I am certain that we are going to make the payments as scheduled considering our partnership with Wicknell Chivayo who will be making the payments,” he said.
The country risked missing out on the preliminary rounds of the 2022 World Cup after Saintfiet had lodged a complaint with Fifa who ruled that Zimbabwe should be expelled from the tourney if they had not settled the Belgian’s debt.
Lambrecht, however, indicated Zifa should stick to the payment schedule or risk being penalised by Fifa.
“I would also like to stress that should this payment schedule not be respected following the first payment on 23 December (and Zifa misses the next payment date), I will automatically and without prior warning send a letter to Fifa requesting your automatic exclusion,” he said in an email to Zifa.
Zimbabwe had already missed out on the 2018 World Cup preliminaries after Brazillian, Valinhos had sent a letter of complaint to Fifa who made the decision to bar the county unless the $81 000 debt has been settled.