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Date: 23 April 2019

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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Why Saintfeit's permit hit a snag

[Posted 17 Oct 2010]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Saintfeit seen here in good times, but he has since fallen on hard times in his bid to be Zim coach


There are more reasons why new Warriors' coach Tom Saintfeit will take longer than it has already taken to be processed than for the mere reason that it takes six weeks to process work permits in Zimbabwe.

The Belgian's work permit application papers were lodged by the Zimbabwe Football Association on 5 September, just six days before the crucial home encounter against Cape Verde in an Africa Cup of Nations 2012 qualifier.

Saintfeit could not sit on the Zimbabwean bench as coach for the reason that he did not have requisite papers to legally work in Zimbabwe. Things took a nasty turn, albeit as expected, when the former Namibia coach was served with 'deportation' papers during a Warriors training session at the National Sports Stadium.

ZIFA has been, correctly so, blamed for the fiasco which saw the new coach being asked to leave the country, and the team having to play under guidance of care-taker co-coaches Madinda Ndlovu and Norman Mapeza.

Zimbabwe is currently being governed through a power-sharing arrangement at political level, and the same challenges which have been witnessed at that level were evident on a soccer pitch when the Warriors gave a near life-less performance before their home fans.

It is fast emerging that Saintfeit's work permit has hit a snag because of other administrative reasons which were not given as the real cause of the delay at first.

Clearly, there is no escaping the fact that there was no harmony within ZIFA in the appointment of Saintfeit. Confusing events started to unfold after a ZIFA sub-committee tasked with searching for a coach reached a decision to hire the Belgian.

That lack of harmony within ZIFA has been blamed for all the problems that have bedevilled Saintfeit's permit application as well as the Warriors' camp, leading to a demoralising 0-0 draw at home against the Blue Sharks.

A few days after ZIFA submitted the coach's work permit, albeit late, it emerged that the Sports and Recreation Commission was opposed to the offering of the job to a foreign coach who did not have a good coaching track record at national team level.

Reportedly the SRC argued that ZIFA needed to justify the preference of Saintfeit over a local coach given the Belgian's lack of coaching experience at national team level.

At the time ZIFA offered the Warriors' job to Saintfeit, there was an outcry from the Namibia  Football Association who argued that the action of their sister association, ZIFA, of 'poaching' their coach was unethical.

Saintfeit and his new employers ZIFA had argued at the time that there was nothing amiss in the manner Saintfeit had been hired. The two further argued that rumours that ZIFA had to pay the NFA some compensation were unfounded.

It now emerges that part of the reasons why the department of Immigration has not yet processed Saintfeit's permit is that the NFA has not released Saintfeit from his contract.

“We have also noted that the application (for work permit) does not include the letter from the Namibian Football Association showing that they have terminated the coach’s contract and we will require all that information.

“We cannot grant a permit in a situation where the applicant has two valid contracts in different countries,” Evans Siziba, an Immigration Officer said last week.

Apart from the challenge that Saintfeit has not yet been released from his contract by the NFA and is technically employed by two associations, ZIFA faces a claim of $30 000 in compensation for approaching the coach while he was in the employ of the NFA.

The Namibians made startling claims last week when they revealed for the first time that ZIFA talked to Saintfeit without the NFA knowledge on the eve of a crucial opening afcon match against Gambia, which the Brave Warriors lost 3-0.

The Namibians are furious about the actions of ZIFA and have labelled their fellow COSAFA region football leaders as a "a leadership of fools" and blamed them for their team's loss in Gambia.

“The issue here is not about the money. It’s about the new Zifa leadership of fools who talked to our coach on the eve of an important match for Namibia.

"After Zifa made contact with Tom (Saintfiet) he became arrogant and insulted everyone on the eve of the Gambia match. He created animosity in camp and we went on to lose that match. The thing is that he wanted to walk away with full benefits but we never fired him,” Barry Rukoro, the NFA Secretary General said.

The NFA, according to Rukoro, was seriously considering referring their dispute with ZIFA to the World football governing body, FIFA. The complaint might have been received by FIFA at the time of writing.

The Namibians are also adamant that they will not release the letter of termination of Saintfeit's work contract with the NFA until the matter of compensation has been resolved.

Saintfeit and ZIFA's problems are compounded by the fact that the Immigration department will not process Saintfeit's application without a letter of release from the NFA. That appears to be giving the Namibians a strong ground in their claim.

Will the cash-strapped ZIFA be able to pay a whopping $30 000 to secure the release of Saintfeit's employment termination letter from the NFA?

Meanwhile there are rumours that the Warriors' players were not happy with the shambolic preparations for the Cape Verde match last Sunday.

Some foreign-based players spoke to some local newspapers and complained about the $30 per day allowance which each player was given by ZIFA for being in camp. The players believe the allowance was too little.

Other Warriors players based in Europe who spoke to The Standard further complained that they had to pay for their tickets out of their pockets because ZIFA failed to do so on time. The players were reportedly refunded upon arrival in Harare. 

The players are now threatening to boycott Zimbabwe's away trip to Mali in March next year, if the Zifa board does not move in quickly to resolve the matter.

The outlook is looking bleak as far as securing the work permit for Saintfeit is concerned, given the mounting challenges surrounding his appointment.

But is Saintfeit really worth all this fight given his lack of a convincing national team coaching track record?

Was this guy worth sacrificing the Warriors AFCON 2012 campaign in the manner that ZIFA did last week?

Who is really worth fighting for and sacrificing, the Warriors, the pride of millions of Zimbabweans at home and abroad, or ZIFA and their meaningless pursuit of Saintfeit? 

Write back to us and share your views on the ongoing Saintfeit saga and the performance of the Warriors against Cape Verde on or .


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