Zimbabwe coach faces axe over work permit

HARARE, Nov 12 (Reuters) - Belgian Tom Saintfiet, who signed a four-year contract to coach Zimbabwe in August, appears set to lose his post in a country he was forced to flee three days into the job after he failed in his bid to obtain a work permit.

On Friday, the Zimbabwe Football Association confirmed the 37-year-old had been refused a work permit after several weeks waiting for word on his application.

Despite the setback, the organisation's chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze said he would look to re-apply to Zimbabwe's immigration officials in the coming weeks.

"We have contract with him we need to honour," he told reporters.

Saintfiet had resigned as coach of Namibia to take up the higher profile position in Zimbabwe and was appointed a week before last month's African Nations Cup qualifier against the Cape Verde Islands.

However, he was forced to flee Harare within days of his arrival in early October after being told during his second training session that police were seeking to arrest him because he had started his new job without necessary documentation.

"It was one of the scariest moments of my life," Saintfiet explained in an interview with Reuters.

"I couldn't get my luggage from the hotel but drove straight to the border. I had no idea why this all happened or where it all ends. I have been shocked."

Saintfiet said he presumed approval for the work permit was a formality and would have been issued without delay while he got on with the task of preparing the team for an important qualifier.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper suggested on Friday that the decision had been motivated by political infighting within the association, with top officials split on the appointment of a foreign coach over a local.