ZIMBABWE have a good chance of retaining the Cosafa Cup they won last year, as they have been slated to start this year’s edition at the quarter-final stage.
BY HENRY MHARA
This year’s tournament is scheduled for South Africa’s Limpopo province from May 27 to June 9.
In recent years, the Warriors would begin the competition at the initial stages, often struggling to go past the group stages.
However, they have been rewarded for their excellent performance in the competition last year where they clinched the regional championship.
They were given a bye in the group stages and will start the competition in the quarter-finals.
The draw for the 18th edition of the tournament was conducted in South Africa on Wednesday, with all 14 members of the Cosafa confirming their participation, for the first time in history.
Zimbabwe, who claimed a record fifth title in South Africa last year, will face the winner of Group B, which includes Angola, Botswana, Mauritius and Malawi.
Hosts South Africa will take on the winner of Group A, which includes Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros Islands and Seychelles.
The other two quarter-finals will see four-time winners Zambia clash with Namibia as Lesotho take on Swaziland.
“We are delighted that all of our members will take the opportunity to compete at the Cosafa Cup, which is not only a celebration of excellence in Southern African football, but also gives players, coaches and referees the chance to hone their skills in the international environment,” says Timothy Shongwe, Cosafa executive committee — competitions.
“The Cosafa Cup has a rich history of developing talent in all areas in our region and is vital for many countries as a tournament that provides them with international exposure. We would like to thank all our stakeholders for making this tournament possible again this year, including our gracious hosts, the South African Football Association and the beautiful Limpopo province,” he added.
There was also a major announcement on Wednesday when the prize money for the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Championship was handed over, totaling R1-million from sponsors Kwesé TV, the same amount that was made available to the men.
South African captain Refiloe Jane received a cheque for R500 000, while last year’s losing skipper Talent Mandaza from Zimbabwe, received R250 000. Zambia collected R150 000 for third place and Kenya got R100 000 for coming out fourth.
“We take great pride in being able to elevate the prize-money for the Cosafa Women’s Championship to the same level as for our senior men’s competition to make a statement about how seriously we take women’s football in the region,” said Cosafa president, Philip Chiyangwa.
“Our teams have made great strides in recent years, including both South Africa and Zimbabwe, representing the African continent at the Olympic Games last year, and we are sure that this will assist in the development of the women’s game in our region.”
This would come as sweet news to the Mighty Warriors who have been struggling to get their winning bonuses and allowances from Zifa.
The ladies’ team staged a sit-in at the Zifa Village a fortnight ago in protest over unpaid allowances after their 4-0 aggregate victory over Namibia in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier.
The stand-off only ended after Kwesé TV promised to take care of the team’s welfare for the rest of the campaign, where the team meets Zambia in the final qualifier, with the winner progressing to the finals set for Ghana, this November.