Paris - Zimbabwe have been thrown out of the African qualifying competition for the 2018 World Cup in Russia over an outstanding debt, football's governing body FIFA announced on Thursday.
The Zimbabwe federation (ZIFA) owe an "exceptional debt" to Brazilian former national coach Valinhos and were ordered by FIFA in 2012 to pay the money owed since 2008.
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Disciplinary proceedings against ZIFA were opened and the deadline for paying the debt had now expired, FIFA explained.
"Given ZIFA's failure to make any payment within the granted periods and the request presented by the creditor, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee ordered the expulsion of ZIFA from the preliminary competition of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia," a statement on the FIFA website announced.
"It's very disappointing, very disappointing and very painful for football lovers and supporters of the national team," ZIFA spokesman Xolisani Gwesela told AFP in Harare.
He said Valinhos is owed $67,000 (63,000 euros) in salaries and allowances from his stint as national team coach in 2008.
"This happened before the current board came into office. However, the board will meet urgently (to discuss) the way forward."
He said ZIFA are saddled with a $4 million debt incurred during national team assignments.
"Normally the government should support the national team, but this has not been the case.
"We have presented our budget, but we understand the government is also financially constrained.
"ZIFA has no capacity to support its operations and without government support it will be difficult for us to get out of our current predicament."