FIFA has singled out Zimbabwe’s crisis that reached a new peak with last month’s discredited single-candidate election that returned president Robert Mugabe as one of the major problems weighing heavily on South Africa’s preparations for the 2010 World Cup finals.
"The situation in Zimbabwe has to be solved quickly.
What is happening there is definitely terrible," the world soccer body’s secretary general Jerome Valcke told the media in Johannesburg on Wednesday, adding that it would have been much better for South Africa if the Zimbabwe crisis was not there.
"It would have been nice for South Africa with all the other challenges they are facing not to have the problem of Zimbabwe on top of it all," he added.
Mugabe won a June 27 run-off presidential election uncontested, after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the poll, saying widespread political violence against his supporters made a free and fair vote impossible.
Several African observers including those from the African Union (AU) condemned the run-off election as undemocratic, while the Group of Eight major industrialised countries on Tuesday agreed to impose sanctions against Mugabe’s government after he ignored calls by both African and Western countries not to go ahead with the run-off vote.
The AU has however resisted calls by Western nations for sanctions against Mugabe and instead used its summit in Egypt last week to urge the Zimbabwean leader to open negotiations with Tsvangirai for a government of national unity.
Valcke said FIFA fully backed various initiatives underway to help resolve Zimbabwe’s long running political crisis.
The FIFA official would not commit himself on what the world soccer authority would do in the event of United Nations-backed sanctions against Zimbabwe.
FIFA has in the past stayed clear of political squabbles and Valcke appeared keen to emphasise the point that Zimbabwe’s Warriors national side could not be held responsible for the country’s political problems.
"Their national association has done nothing wrong. This would be something we would have to discuss with the United Nations. We do have links with some international bodies but for the time being I can tell you we have made no decision on Zimbabwe," he said.
Turning to South Africa Valcke said Africa’s biggest economy was facing several challenges in its preparations to host the 2010 soccer fest.
However the FIFA official was confident that these would be overcome. "We have to focus on everything. Nothing is ready yet but all has to be ready for 2010," he said.