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Zimbabwe: High Court Rules Against Zimbabwe Football Association Chairman

A Zimbabwe high court has ruled against Leo Mugabe, a nephew of the Zimbabwe president, who wanted the court to overturn his removal on corruption charges as chairman of the Zimbabwe Football Association, ZIFA. He was forced to step down last month following a no confidence vote from the ZIFA board. Local soccer fans also blame Mr. Mugabe for the long losing streak of their beloved national soccer team, the Warriors.

The ZIFA board's no confidence action against Mr. Mugabe was ratified Saturday by a four to one vote from the full ZIFA council. It held that Mr. Mugabe was unable to satisfactorily explain what happened to a $61,000 grant given to ZIFA by the World soccer governing body, FIFA.

The council vote took place following a high court ruling that it had no jurisdiction of soccer matters.

Mr. Mugabe had sought the court's support, claiming the charges against him were baseless. He also said he had been denied a fair hearing as the boardroom coup took place while he was in Nigeria with the national women's soccer team for a continental tournament.

Mr. Mugabe was elected chairman of ZIFA in 1993. Since then the Warriors have failed to qualify for any continental or global competitions. Over the years there were calls for Mr. Mugabe to resign for incompetence and rumors of corrupt practices.

Now that the longest serving chairman of ZIFA since independence 22 years ago is out, soccer fans say it could be the turning point for their beloved but under-achieving team. Officials within ZIFA also hope that business people who had been wary of sponsoring the game under Mr. Mugabe's stewardship may now come forward with the money to help develop and support the game.

Following Friday's court ruling and the overall ZIFA vote of no confidence in Leo Mugabe, the current board members will remain in control until elections are held for a new chairman before the end of this month.