From The Herald
By Petros Kausiyo
30 June 2011

FIFA president Sepp Blatter will arrive in Harare on Monday in the first high-profile visit to the country by the leader of the world football governing body, which will also be a massive blow to those who have been trying to use sport as part of the instruments in their bid to isolate Zimbabwe.

The 75-year-old Fifa boss is also expected to pay a courtesy call on President Mugabe at State House, just hours after touching down at the Harare International Airport, during his two-day trip to Zimbabwe during which he will be accompanied by Fifa secretary-general, Jerome Valcke.

Blatter’s visit is also a massive boardroom coup for Zifa president Cuthbert Dube and his board as it should cement relations between the two bodies.

Crucially for Zimbabwe, the visit by the highest official in world football will provide further testimony that this country is a safe destination at a time when some detractors have been calling for its isolation from the rest of the globe.

Even such nations as Australia have also ended their isolation of Zimbabwe and the Aussie A na-tional cricket A side is in the country for a triangular series, which also includes South Africa.

Blatter becomes the first Fifa president to visit Zimbabwe and his tour has naturally been greeted with excitement by the domestic football family wi-th an ecstatic Zifa president Dube yesterday saying the meeting between his board and the world body’s leadership could change the face of the domestic game.

Dube said Blatter’s visit would also herald a new chapter for Zifa’s Goal Project, which his board has been on a crusade to revive, since they came into office on March 27 last year.

The Zifa president said the visit was also a fulfillment of an invitation he had extended to the Fifa boss during the world body’s congress in Zurich, Switzerland, at the start if this month at which Blatter was elected unopposed for another four-year term following the withdrawal of Asian football chief Mohammad bin Hammam.

Blatter wrote to Dube on Tuesday confirming his visit and also outlining his itinerary.

The Fifa president will, after his working visit to Zimbabwe, proceed to Durban, South Africa, for the 123rd Session of the International Olympic Committee.

“Now that I have returned to Zurich from a trip to the USA and Germany (semi-finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the opening ceremony of the Fifa Women’s World Cup Germany 2011), I would like to thank you for your fax dated 21 June 2011.

“I am pleased to inform you that I will visit your country on Monday 4 July 2011 on my way to Durban (123rd IOC Session).

“On this occasion, I will be very happy and very proud to meet the football family and the representatives of your government and to visit your Goal Project and perform the ground-breaking ceremony at the site of your technical centre.

“For this trip to Zimbabwe, I will be accompanied by the Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke and other persons of the Fifa secretariat. Looking forward to seeing you next Monday,” wrote Blatter.

Dube also rolled out a busy schedule for Blatter in which the Fifa president, an avid supporter of women’s football, will also visit Rufaro and take time to watch one of the matches of the Cosafa Women’s

Championships, which will burst into life at Rufaro and Gwanzura on Saturday.

Blatter and Valcke will also address a press conference at a Harare hotel while Zifa will, later in the evening, host a dinner for the Fifa president.

But it is Blatter’s visit to Zimbabwe which Dube believes is a major vote of confidence in his board that has been battling to rebuild Zifa’s image and also turn around the fortunes of the financially troubled association.

Dube said they would also take the opportunity to highlight to Fifa the state of the domestic game, the efforts his board has made so far and the challenges they are facing, including that of recapitilising.

Zifa have already applied for US$1, 5 million from Fifa to recapitalise their operations and pay off a long list of creditors they inherited from their predecessors including former Warriors coach Valinhos who has taken his case, which is still pending, to the world body’s headquarters in Zurich.

“It is a first for Zimbabwe football to have the highest office at Fifa visiting us.

“When we went to Zurich (for the Congress) we spoke to him and he agreed that he would find time to come over.

“Fifa have also invited us to come to Zurich to discuss our request for funding and they are sympathetic to our cause and the fact that even though we inherited a bankrupt association with no proper take over, hand over, we have been accountable and there is corporate governance that is taking place.

“Blatter is pleased with the current leadership since we came into office, he is happy with the way we have conducted our Goal Project… we appointed the contractors on a tender basis and we have said Zifa will not handle any money for the Goal Project.

“All we will do is facilitate the handling of the invoices but the payments will go direct to the contractors as we try to avoid problems of the past.

“We will use the same approach if we get funding for recapitalisation and we will ensure that our creditors are paid directly by Fifa.

“We are facing litigation from a long list of creditors including people like Valinhos, whom we had been told had been fully paid when we came in, only to find that he had appealed for his outstanding salaries through Fifa ,” Dube said.

Blatter, Dube also said, had pledged to assist Zifa secure funding for their Goal Project III in September.

The association is looking at completing Phase II of their Goal Project by the end of August.

During their meeting with the Fifa president, Zifa have also indicated that they will also showcase the strides they have made in reviving women’s football in the country which has resulted in the resurgent Mighty Warriors qualifying for the All-Africa Games scheduled for Mozambique in September.

“We will also discuss issues to with professionalising the game and how we are making sure that there is Fair Play in our football in view of all those match-fixing allegations that tainted our game.

“During his visit he will also have an opportunity to visit the site of our technical centre at the Zifa Village and we will tell him that apart from the Mt Hampden complex we have engaged the municipalities of

Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Kariba for land to build more technical centres there.

“It is our desire to decentralise football by having centres of excellence in all our four football regions,” Dube said.

But for two days early next week, Zimbabwe will once again be the focus of global attention as Blatter makes his maiden visit to this country.