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Zambian soccer crisis

Zambia’s Premier League (ZPL) clubs have embarked on an indefinite boycott of their domestic league matches in a last-ditch attempt to force the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) to convene an emergency council meeting to resolve an impasse over the interpretation of its constitution.

The boycott started with the league match featuring army side Green Buffaloes against Zanaco on Wednesday. The clubs want to bring Zambian football to its knees and plan to intensify their boycott at the weekend, with the Referees’ Association of Zambia (RAZ) withdrawing their whistlemen in solidarity.

The bone of contention is the president of FAZ, Kalusha Bwalya, and his executive committee, whom the clubs refuse to recognise after the resignation of four elected members. They claim Bwalya unconstitutionally co-opted four additional members, which, they say, is a violation of the FAZ constitution.

The four — Violet Bwalya (no relation to Kalusha), Pivoty Simwanza, Henschel Chitembeya and the vice- president, Emmanuel Munaile — tendered their resignations almost a month ago, citing a lack of transparency in FAZ. They have also written to Fifa requesting the world controlling body to intervene in establishing a “normalisation committee” in Zambia.

Kephas Katongo, a lawyer and the head of the ZPL committee, said: “Until the emergency meeting of the FAZ council is convened to discuss and find a way forward, we will not participate in any league games. The clubs are of the view that they cannot continue to play football in the absence of a legitimate executive committee.”

But FAZ says the boycott is illegal and the games will go ahead. Yet teams that were preparing for Wednesday broke up camp to comply with the boycott. The RAZ has also instructed its members not to officiate in any match until further notice.

Disgruntlement
A committee appointed by the National Sports Council of Zambia to investigate the legality of the FAZ executive says they have appealed to Fifa to appoint a normalisation committee or compel the FAZ to hold an emergency meeting to sort out the issue.

But Fifa has said it recognises the reconstituted committee. “We would like to underline once more that, if some of the FAZ members are unhappy with the current situation, they must act according to the current FAZ statutes,” said Jerome Valcke, Fifa secretary general, in a letter to Bwalya. “They can wait for the next annual council to express their disgruntlement or wait for the next elective council due to take place in a year and half to elect a new board,” he wrote.

But Sunday Nkonde, a Zambian state counsel (SC), said that, according to his interpretation of the FAZ constitution, the present committee is illegal and should dissolve — it had been rendered dysfunctional by the resignation of the four members.

Nkonde, who is also a former chairman of the FAZ disciplinary committee, said Fifa was probably not made aware of article 27 (3) (iii) of the FAZ constitution, which required six members of the executive committee to form a quorum before they could take any binding decision pertaining to the running of football in the country.

Asked about the resignations, Kalusha Bwalya said that people were confusing the functions of the secretariat. “People cannot be involved in the day-to-day running of the FAZ,” he said. “That is the function of the secretariat.

“But I think there is a conspiracy here. You know in Africa we always want to shoot ourselves in the foot.”

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