Zurich - Zimbabwe was thrown out of 2018 World Cup qualifying on Thursday for failing to pay its national team coach.
FIFA's disciplinary committee said it took the action "as a result of the non-payment of an outstanding debt" by Zimbabwe's soccer federation to coach Jose Claudinei Georgini.
The decision was announced just as the first match in the global World Cup qualifying program was kicking off in Asia. East Timor beat Mongolia 4-1.
Zimbabwe's removal spoils FIFA's recent claim of a first qualifying campaign where all its member federations would play.
Zimbabwe was initially ordered by FIFA to pay the Brazilian coach in August 2012. Disciplinary proceedings were later opened against the Zimbabwe Football Association on the request of Claudinei, FIFA said.
In April 2013, ZIFA was given 60 days to pay half the amount it owed Claudinei, and 120 days to pay the full amount. Zimbabwe was given a final grace period to settle the debt before being banned, FIFA said Thursday in a statement.
Because it failed to make any payments, the FIFA disciplinary committee "ordered the expulsion of ZIFA from the preliminary competition of the 2018 World Cup (in) Russia," FIFA said.
FIFA said Zimbabwe did not appeal its expulsion.
Zimbabwe's soccer body has severe financial problems, reflecting the dire economic situation in the troubled country.
Local media reported this month that ZIFA was selling off some of its facilities — reportedly including an artificial soccer turf donated by FIFA — to pay some of its debts. The state-run Herald newspaper said a tractor and furniture at a ZIFA training center were also up for auction.
ZIFA needed the money after being ordered by a court to pay another former employee $88 000, the Herald reported.