Fifa boss Sepp Blatter has paid tribute to Zimbabwe women football and pledged his support to further develop the game.
Blatter, who arrived in the country on Monday and left 24 hours later, was speaking at a press conference where he praised the nation for agreeing to host the Cosafa Women’s Championships at short notice.
Reunion were the initial hosts but pulled out at the last minute leading to the regional body asking Zimbabwe to step in.
“It is very great to have the Cosafa games here and the response from the public has been very good. I want to pay tribute to a very beautiful lady here, Mavis Gumbo, who has done very well for the game. There are leagues now running in the regions and now there is even a super league with 12 teams,” he said.
Gumbo, on her part told NewsDay Sport yesterday the honour was not hers alone, but belonged to the entire football family in the country.
“It is big honour to receive such mention from the top football boss and I must say, this is not an individual honour, but for all of us in women football. We work together as a team with the board and the media has supported us well with positive stories.
“You (media) have highlighted where we were, where we are now and where we are going. Remember, it started with South Africa last year, but look at where we are now. There has been teamwork and perseverance and I owe it to Zimbabweans.”
She added: “This is a big encouragement to me and it really means I have to put even more effort into the game because people will be watching us. At least, he (Blatter) has pledged that he will support us because he believes the future of football lies with women.”
Turning to the ongoing Cosafa championships where two semi-finals will be played today featuring Zimbabwe-Tanzania and South Africa-Malawi, Gumbo admitted the challenges they faced in getting going.
“I must admit there were challenges here and there — it was at short notice but ZTA (Zimbabwe Tourism Authority) came in with support, and I am glad the games are going on well,’ she said.
Gumbo came into office in March last year when women football was no longer in existence, save for Bulawayo which had a running league.
Together with her hard-working secretary-general Samkeliso Silengane, they quickly went on with the job and by December 22, the Mighty Warriors were playing South Africa at Rufaro Stadium in an international friendly to mark National Unity Day.
With further support from Zifa board president Cuthbert Dube, they revitalised the regional structures which eventually culminated in the formation of the national Super League at the beginning of June.
The national team has already qualified for the All-Africa Games that will be staged in Maputo, Mozambique, in September and as part of preparations, the squad has already secured tickets to train in Germany next month to prepare for the finals.