Fifa president Sepp Blatter will be the star attraction when Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors take on Malawi in a Cosafa Women championships Group A clash at Rufaro Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Blatter and Fifa secretary-general Jerome Valcke are expected at the Harare International Airport this morning for a day’s visit where they will meet the country’s football authorities.
The visit by the two most powerful men in world football will be a big boost for the organisers of the Southern region women’s championships whose tournament kicked off on Saturday under a cloud of uncertainties.
After a last-minute pullout by Reunion who were initially expected to host the one-week long soccer jamboree, it all looked dim for the organisers who then gambled to take the tournament to Zimbabwe.
There were major doubts at first with the Sport and Recreation Commission having already said it was not possible to host a tournament at such a short notice.
It took the intervention of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority who pledged to meet the accommodation costs of all the visiting teams while Fifa chipped in and promised to meet other costs.
With Blatter now expected to grace the event today, this year’s edition looks certain to go down the history books as the best ever since the inception of the tournament in 2002.
It was all systems go on Saturday when the soccer festival kicked off with the hosts Zimbabwe and defending champions South Africa making their intensions of winning the trophy this year incredibly clear.
Banyana Banyana, who have won the last three editions of the trophy, humbled Shepolopolo Queens of Zambia 4-1 in an earlier match at Rufaro Stadium.
Former African Player of the Year, Noku Matlou, who seems to be getting better with age netted a brace, and forced an own goal from Mulayi Wilombe before Amanda Dlamini volleyed home to make it four. Zambia got their consolation through Estas Banda.
The Mighty Warriors were also in no mean mood as they crashed minnows Lesotho later in the day at the same venue.
The hosts got in the groove as early as the sixth minute when Rudo Neshamba headed home from close range before Tsitsi Mairosi and two substitutes Rufaro Machingura and Kudakwashe Bhasopo made the win resounding.
At Gwanzura, Mozambique played to a 1-1 draw with Malawi in Group A in the early game, before East African special guest Tanzania beat Botswana 3-1 in Group B later on in the day at the same venue.
With all the other teams having played their second round matches on Sunday, the focus will be at Rufaro on Monday when the Mighty Warriors engage Malawi in a rescheduled match to accommodate Blatter.
After hitting Lesotho by four, Mighty Warriors coach Rosemary Mugadza was still not amused with her charges’ performance, an indication that we might witness a goal feast in today’s match.
“We should work hard to improve in all the areas we were lacking. I think complacency played a huge part in our game, the girls tried hard to come back at the end of the second half against Lesotho and we have to carry on from there. We have a day to rest and thus we have ample time to prepare for the match against Malawi,” said the former Mighty Warriors captain.
“Our chances of qualifying for the semi-finals are very bright, if we win on Monday we are home and dry,” she added.
The Mighty Warriors will again bank on the exploits of midfielder Talent Mandaza who was brilliant all afternoon against Lesotho with complete natural brilliance, while Machingura came on late on the second half but still kept the fans on the edge of their seats with some deft touches.
The gangly striker capped that cameo appearance with a goal and it will not be a surprise if she is thrust in the first XI on Monday to partner chief striker Rudo Neshamba.