Zimbabwe senior men’s soccer team, the Warriors, has been given a glimmer of hope after being included in the draw for the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers which begin on the 30th of May.
The Warriors are in Group K together with Morocco, Liberia and neighbors South Africa in a group that has been dubbed as the group of death.
As it stands the country is suspended from international football for third party interference after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) banned the Felton Kamambo led ZIFA administration.
FIFA has demanded that the suspended ZIFA board be reinstated for the Warriors to take part in the qualifiers of the continent’s most prestigious tournament as well as regain their membership status.
According to CAF, the Warriors have been a two-week ultimatum to reinstate the board or the warriors would be kicked out of the tournament, Group K with three teams participating.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare, buoyed by the inclusion of the team in the CAF draw, expressed hope that the SRC would lift the ban in time for the team’s participation.
“We have so much faith in what the minister said when she met the portfolio committee. She doesn’t want the athletes to miss any tournament. We have faith that there will be a solution to the impasse. The players are 100% positive that they will participate, CAF raised the stakes when they included us in the draw. We can’t afford to fail ourselves as a nation” said the Warriors team manager.
If the ban is lifted, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, the SRC and ZIFA, will have to grapple with the headache of finding a ground where they will host their home matches as the National Sports Stadium that has been used as the venue for home matches is banned from hosting international matches for failing to meet required international standards.
Sports analyst and administrator Martin Changachirere believes that a lot needs to be done so that the Warriors play football on home soil.
“We can’t host matches at home suppose the ban is lifted. Nothing has been done in accordance to the recommendations of the last inspection. Zambia will be a likely destination to host our home matches away from home. A very embarrassing feat especially for the SRC whose heavy handedness to the ZIFA board is there for everyone to see,” Changachirere told Review & Mail Sports.
ZIFA Councilors are set to meet for an Emergency General Meeting this weekend, which could seal the fate of the Kamambo led administration.
However, FIFA has maintained that the only ticket that can see the ban being lifted is when Kamambo is reinstated as the ZIFA president.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare believes the draw is fair and requires adequate preparations.
“It’s a draw that needs us to prepare very well and make sure we have all our best players available. We played South Africa recently and we were missing the bulk of our foreign based players. With Liberia, they are bad travelers but difficult to beat at their home ground. Then Morocco, we just need to beat them at home in fact if we win all our home games and get a point away we good to go through. The challenge is with our home ground. If we play our home games away then it will be difficult to go through. Otherwise it’s a fair draw”, Mupandare said.