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SRC bars Young Warriors

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BY HENRY MHARA

YOUNG Warriors’ participation at this year’s Cosafa Under-20 Zonal Championship in South Africa hangs in balance after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) this week controversially refused to sanction the trip.

The team, which is coached by Tonderai Ndiraya, has been in camp for almost a week in preparation for the tournament slated for December 3-14 in Port Elizabeth.

The competition will also act as a zonal qualifier for the 2021 Africa Under-20 Cup of Nations, with the two finalists set to advance to the continental showpiece that is scheduled for Mauritania next year.

However, it appears that the young boys’ dream of playing international football and possibly get themselves contracts abroad could be crashed after SRC on Tuesday refused to clear the team to travel for the tournament.

Zimbabwe also risk a two-year ban from the competition and a US$150 000 fine if they pull out.

All national team travels outside the country have to be approved by the government through the SRC.

SRC on Monday wrote to Zifa informing them that they could not sanction the trip because they had received the request late.

The SRC requires national associations seeking approval to travel to other countries for sporting activities to send a complete list of the travelling delegation 30 days prior to departure.

They also require all the passport details of the travelling party.

But Zifa has often argued that while they want to satisfy the mandatory international travel clearance procedures for sports teams, the nature of football always presents challenges.

They contend that, unlike the other sport codes, it is impossible for them to establish the actual delegation of a team until a provisional squad has been announced.

National team call-ups normally happen two weeks before the match date or the first match of any tournament.

With this in mind, Zifa on October 9 wrote to SRC requesting clearance for all impending national teams’ matches and outside travels.

In the letter dated on November 3, Zifa listed the Mighty Warriors and the Young Mighty Warriors’ trips to South Africa for Cosafa women tournaments, the Warriors’ Africa Cup of Nations trip to Algeria a fortnight ago, the Under-17 trip to South Africa last week for Cosafa and the Under 20 men’s team.

Curiously, the SRC approved the other four trips and their refusal to sanction the latest trip raises serious questions of sabotage.

There is bad blood between SRC and Zifa, with the latter accusing the former of overstepping its mandate.

“We are disappointed by this decision and we have since appealed to Sports minister Kirsty Coventry,” Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said.

Zifa only sent the details of the Under 20’s provisional delegation on Friday last week after Ndiraya had picked his men for the tournament.

“We are cognisant of your request for us to send complete delegations earlier than we do, but we would like to draw your attention to the reason why it impossible for us to do so,” Zifa wrote.

“We cannot ascertain the actual delegation until a provisional list of players has been called up, and this normally happens only 14 days before the match date or the first match of any tournament. For that reason, we can only submit a full delegation list for clearance when everyone involved has confirmed their commitment. Also, we have instances where players called up have to apply for travel documents while in camp, and their details will be incomplete for clearance requests,” Zifa pleaded.

However, the SRC could not have any of that.

“Please be advised that this tour is not approved for failure to abide by the set regulations for sport tours outside the country. Please further note that all unapproved tours must not be undertaken and any failure to abide by the same will result in the commission invoking the necessary disciplinary measures in terms of the Sports and Recreation Commission Act,” the SRC wrote on Monday.

Zifa has since appealed to Coventry to intervene.

In a letter to the minister, the association said: “The refusal by SRC to grant the U20 clearance is coming to us as surprise considering that we wrote to them on October 9 requesting clearance to participate in these international tournaments. SRC authorised us to start training for national teams on October 16 and prior to that, all football activities had been suspended as a mitigatory measure to contain the coronavirus. The withdrawal of the Zimbabwe U-20 team to participate in this tournament will have dire consequences as the country will be severely sanctioned.”

According to the tournament rules, withdrawal from the tournament by a participating association notified less than 20 days before the start of the tournament or during; will entail, in addition to the loss of the entry fee, a fine of US$150 000 as well as the suspension of the relevant national association for the next two editions of the tournament.

“We request your intervention in this matter and appeal for your authorisation to clear the U20 team and avoid embarrassment for the country,” Zifa added in its later to Coventry.
The minister is yet to responded to the Zifa letter.

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