By Grace Chingoma
The Mighty Warriors will take part at the COSAFA Championships in South Africa next month, pending authority being granted by the authorities.
ZIFA board member, Sugar Chagonda, confirmed last year that the country’s teams will take part at the regional tournament.
Reports, earlier in the day, had suggested ZIFA were mulling withdrawing the Mighty Warriors from the tourney.
The regional tournament will run from November 3 to 18 at the Nelson Mandela Bay in Eastern Cape.
Although, ZIFA sought Government approval, to clear the women’s teams last week, they are yet to get that green-light and this fed to speculation the national teams would be withdrawn from the Cosafa Championships.
Sources had told The Herald the association felt the players, who have not kicked a ball since March, when domestic football went into lockdown, were also not in good shape for the tourney.
“The teams that have confirmed their participation are South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Angola and Malawi, while Namibia and Eswatini are awaiting government approval to travel,’’ COSAFA had said on their website.
“East African nation Kenya have requested a guest place in the tournament, while Mauritius remain doubtful.
“Madagascar, Seychelles and Mozambique have declined, and Lesotho are yet to commit to taking part.’’
The Young Warriors are also set to compete against five other teams — Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Comoros, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The draws for both the senior team, and the Under-17 team, are scheduled for next Tuesday.
The ZIFA board, which met over the weekend to discuss a number of issues, also looked into the challenges related to sending the national women teams to the regional tournaments.
Last night, Chagonda, said the country was set to be represented.
“We received the invitation to participate in the COSAFA tournament and, as a country, we have confirmed our readiness, and willingness, to participate in COSAFA,’’ he told ZBC.
“That is, in terms of senior men, women, Under-20, so yes, as a country, we have confirmed our participation and, certainly, right now, there are other administrative issues that are being addressed but, certainly, as a country, we will be participating.’’
Sources had said the association wanted to avoid the kind of backlash which was triggered by the chaos related to the Warriors’ international friendly against Malawi last week.
“Scientifically, a player requires six weeks to get match fit and participate in a competitive match,’’ the sources said.
“The board is concerned about this considering that this tournament is only three weeks away.
“The Emergency Committee is expected to further discuss the issue, and come up with a decision, which will be then announced by the ZIFA president.
“But, the board have noted that people were not happy that inactive players ended up travelling to Malawi, and played in the friendly match, exposing them to injuries.
“So, there was a general feeling that the Mighty Warriors and the Young Mighty Warriors will forego this year’s tournament.
“But, the matter is being looked at and the final decision will be made in a few days’ time.’’
It has been a year since the Mighty Warriors kicked a ball.
They last featured in the Olympic qualifier against Zambia, in Lusaka, last August and were hammered 0-5.
The Zimbabwean team boycotted the return leg at the National Sports Stadium.
Before that, the national team had participated at the COSAFA Championships at the Nelson Mandela Bay in July and finished third.
ZIFA board member for development, Brighton Malandule, said their focus was no longer confined to the Mighty Warriors only.
“It is unfortunate that Covid-19 affected us but, as a committee, we are now focussing on developmental teams because we realised that, in the past, we were only concentrating on the Mighty Warriors but the girl child starts playing football at an early age and most of them retire early to concentrate on motherhood.
“So, when you concentrate on an Under-20 age group, it would be already too late.
“As a board, we felt we should start from Under-15 at club and schools level. It was a deliberate move by the board that we ought to play all teams at developmental stages.
“The Under-17 tournament was pencilled for Mauritius, in April, but has been moved to November.
“Our Under-20 team is participating in the World Cup qualifiers, which have been postponed, while the Under-17 team also took part in these qualifiers but were booted out by Botswana,” he said. The Herald