Afcon 2021: Could Zambia profit from a Zimbabwe ban?

APA-Lusaka (Zambia)

Zambia's national football team the Chipolopolos are waiting in the wings hoping against the odds to replace Zimbabwe at the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations which kicks off in Cameroon on January 9th should FIFA act on a ban threat against the Warriors.

Zimbabwe could face a FIFA ban following what the world football governing body called political interference in the management of the sport in the southern African country.

FIFA frowns on government interference in the affairs of football management in its member countries and had punished offenders in the past, leaving football pundits wondering if Zimbabwe would be the next in line to be punished by having it expelled from the Cameroon tournament.

Last month the all-powerful football government body issued a January 3rd deadline for elected members of the Zimbabwe FA to be reinstated to their positions or the country's teams will face sanctions which include a possible ban from the 2021 AfCON tournament.

A government appointed executive has been running the affairs of football in the country since late last year after elected members of the FA were removed.

Zambia, who were winners of the tournament in 2012 finished third in the qualifying group behind Zimbabwe in second and Algeria in first place but may join the tournament in Cameroon by default.

The Zambians are hoping that Article 86 of the AfCON rules would be applied in this situation.

It states that a team that withdraws from the tournament before it begins can be replaced by the one which is immediately below it in the qualifiers for the competition.

Although Zimbabwe's AfCON fate remains unclear, given that FIFA's January 3rd deadline has since elapsed Zambia still hopes to benefit from the misfortune of its defaulting neighbour and take part in the tournament for the first time since 2015.

However, there could be another scenario like it happened in 2010 when Togo withdrew from the tournament in Angola after its players were attacked by armed separatists.

Zimbabwe's group could therefore be down to three teams instead of four like that occasion when Togo opted out of the tournament. 

Zambia's last participation at the tournament was in 2015 and its football authorities say it could be a challenge to prepare the team for the tournament at very short notice but hope they are given a chance to pull it off.



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