By Mehluli Sibanda
The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) is contesting the decision to expel the country’s Under-17 team from the Cosafa Championship that is underway in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.
On Friday, Cosafa announced that Zimbabwe, Botswana, Comoros Islands, Eswatini had been disqualified from the Under-17 Championship on the basis of fielding over-age players. This was after at least one player from each of the countries failed their magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans that were conducted in the host country prior to the start of the competition.
Yesterday Zifa released a statement in which they indicated that they had asked for Cosafa to name the Zimbabwean player said to be over age. Zifa are adamant that they did not knowingly break the rules of the Under-17 competition.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association is challenging the decision to disqualify our team and has requested Cosafa to avail the name of the player who is alleged to be over the required age. We have appealed against the Caf and Cosafa decision and we are confident that we did not deliberately breach regulations governing the U-17 tournament,’’ said Zifa.
According to Zifa, all the boys that travelled for the tournament were tested at a reputable MRI centre in Harare prior to their departure and the centre used a fairly powerful machine, with the results also reviewed by a specialist Radiologist.
“Our Chief Medical Officer Dr Edward Chagonda is also a Caf certified medical officer. Our team doctor Dr Rabson Zhou who travelled with the team has all the test results with him as proof,’’ Zifa said.
Before the team’s departure, Zifa said they carried out similar tests on the boys and disqualified six for failing to satisfy the bone fusion criteria, with only those determined to be of the correct age making the trip to South Africa. Zifa have also undertaken to conduct further investigations on how the six who were dropped failed the tests.
Claivert Tshuma of Hwange is one of the six boys who were dropped from the team ahead of departure for South Africa after they failed the MRI scan. Tshuma last year won the country’s most prestigious schools football tournament, Copa Coca-Cola, an Under-16 competition with Prince Edward School of Harare.
Zimbabweans have reacted in shock to the country’s expulsion from the Cosafa Championship.
Veteran football administrator Ndumiso Gumede said while the disqualification would normally be a humiliation for the country, it appears Zimbabweans were accustomed to age manipulation with the only thing they rue being caught.
“Our disqualification from the ongoing Cosafa Under-17 tournament in SA because of alleged age cheating as one ‘young’ Zim player failed an MRI scan should normally be an embarrassment. But we are so used to cheating that we only regret being caught out,’’ said Gumede.
The Tafadzwa Mashiri coached lads are still to return home as Zifa await a response from Cosafa. Zimbabwe were meant to return home as soon as is practically possible after disqualification. SundayNews.