BY HENRY MHARA
The broke Zimbabwe government has passed on the opportunity to host this year’s Cosafa Cup senior men football tournament, claiming that it had not been given enough time to prepare for the regional showpiece.
Cosafa offered Zimbabwe the opportunity to host the cup set for May and meetings between the regional football board, Zifa, Sports and Recreation Commission and the Sports ministry have been ongoing since January when the country was named as host.
Zifa had confirmed their desire to host, exactly 10 years after the country successfully staged the tournament, which Zimbabwe went on to win on home soil.
However, the country’s football mother body needed a government guarantee, which they have failed to get.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation minister, Kirsty Coventry yesterday announced that government, which is struggling financially, had no capacity to host the tournament.
“It’s been agreed that at this time the deal was just not very good for the country or for Zifa, so we will not be hosting the Cosafa Games this year, but we look forward to having adequate time to be able to host a world-class event in the near future,” Coventry said at a Press conference in Harare yesterday.
“We want to make sure that when we do host an event of this magnitude we are fully prepared, we have good timing and we just don’t feel that it should really be given to us this time around. So moving forward we will continue to work closely with Zifa in terms of what the next steps are and what the future holds in terms of hosting the event.”
Asked to further explain the other reasons for pulling out since the country already had the necessary infrastructure to host the tournament, and successfully hosted the Cosafa Women Championships last year on short notice, Coventry said: “It’s just time, being able to host a big event we want to make sure it benefits Zifa, it benefits Zimbabwe as a country, and it benefits our people. As of right now, the final documents were signed in late January and as far as we are all concerned that is just not enough time to host.”
Zimbabwe successfully hosted the Cosafa Women’s Championship in Bulawayo last year, where the Mighty Warriors finished runners-up to winners South Africa. Botswana is next year’s host of the tournament.
“The host for next year already knows that they are hosting and they have an entire year and bit to plan and we feel that is extremely important that we too as a country get that time in that respect to be able to plan and deliver an event that we would be proud of.”
Zimbabwe’s pull-out puts this year’s tournament in major doubt, although it is expected that South Africa, the host of the last two editions, will come in to save the situation.
With the tournament played a month before the Africa Cup of Nations, Zifa president Felton Kamambo said the country will participate and use the cup as preparations for the continental extravaganza, which Egypt will host in June.
“As Zifa, our team will participate in the Cosafa wherever it is going to be held. We will try and bid for future hosting of Cosafa, that is maybe from the year 2021 so that we have enough time to prepare to host this tournament.”
Zimbabwe last hosted the Cosafa senior men’s football event in 2009 using Rufaro Stadium in Harare and Barbourfields in Bulawayo and they won the trophy after beating Zambia in the final.