ZIFA faces another three-year ban from the Confederation of African Football (Caf) after failing to send the Under-17 team to the second round, second leg African Youth Championships qualifier in Congo yesterday.
REPORT BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA SPORTS CORRESPONDENT
The match, moved from last week at Zifa’s request, was due to be played yesterday at 3pm in the Congolese capital of Brazzaville.
The failure by the Zimbabwe team to fulfil the match means the hosts, Congo — who defeated the Young Warriors 2-1 in Harare to go into the second leg with a healthy lead — advance to the next round by virtue of a walk over.
The team was expected to leave for Congo yesterday morning at 1am aboard a Kenyan Airways flight and was expected to arrive at 1pm after a stopover in Nairobi, Kenya.
Team manager Zivanai Chiyangwa said: “It’s a blow for junior football. We have been in camp for 14 weeks and for the campaign to end like this is very sad.”
Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze said in a statement last night: “The team could not secure seats on the flights plying the Nairobi-Congo Brazzaville routes. The team’s flight woes were compounded by the route’s inaccessibility by traditional airlines.
“Zifa engaged the Caf requesting for the rescheduling of the match from November 6 to November 8, citing reasons of flight challenges and Caf could not accede to our request. Caf maintained they would not accommodate a third postponement.
“The association would like to profusely apologise to the young players, technical team, the parents and the family of football for the mishap.”
Zifa also faces a further three-year ban and a fine after failing to send the Under-20 team for the second round, second leg match of the U-20 Africa Youth Championships qualifiers in Angola in August, leaving junior football in tatters.
Last week, the soccer mother body made a resolution during a board meeting to dissolve the entire senior soccer team after the Warriors failed to clear the final hurdle in Angola to qualify for the Nations Cup finals to be staged in South Africa next year.
The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead from the first leg in Harare to lose 0-2 and crash out of the continental soccer showcase and the result was met with a chorus of disapproval from fans and other stakeholders. Zifa leadership responded by retiring the entire team. They alleged the match was fixed and accused the players of lacking commitment to the national cause.
In disbanding the Warriors based on the disgraceful show in Angola and on allegations of match-fixing in Asia between 2007 and 2009 which has seen some players and officials being banned from all football activities for life, Zifa said they would rebuild the senior team around the juniors.
But with such a skewed sense of priority which has seen them failing to send junior teams for the crucial African Youth Championship qualifiers, questions have inevitably been raised over Zifa’s capacity to build a strong future national football team which can qualify for either the Africa Cup of Nations finals or the World Cup.
In essence, Zimbabwe does not have any Under-17 and Under-20 teams for now or for the next three years.
The Under-23 side can only take part in the All Africa Games and Olympic qualifiers, meaning a generation of footballers could be lost.