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FIFA gives Zim more time

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Mark Fish and Micheal Essien

FIFA gives Zim more time. FIFA’S decision to scrap all international matches set for June should give Zimbabwe more time to complete the renovations of the country’s major football stadia.

It also means there is still a window of hope the Warriors will not be forced to host Algeria, in their next 2021 AFCON qualifier, away from home. Had the international matches gone ahead in June, it’s very likely the Warriors would have hosted the Desert Foxes on neutral soil.

FIFA ground inspectors, who were in the country recently, extended the ban on the use of the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields for international matches involving the Warriors. However, the inspectors, who included South African legendary footballer Mark Fish, opened the two stadiums for use by the country’s youth and women national teams.

On Friday, FIFA announced that all international football matches scheduled for June had been postponed. This followed the first meeting of FIFA’s coronavirus working group. It was also decided to hold discussions with confederations to draw up a revised schedule for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, which have been shelved.

“The FIFA-Confederations working group . . . has unanimously approved a series of recommendations following its first meeting, which was organised via conference call.’’ It was already looking unlikely that CAF would hold matches in June because of complications over travel which have been brought about by lockdowns in various countries.

Although international football won’t be returning soon, Zimbabwe women’s national teams have welcomed the decision to have their matches staged at either the National Sports Stadium or Barbourfields.

A further inspection, to determine whether the Warriors can use the two facilities, is likely to be conducted in June/July. Yesterday, the Young Mighty Warriors coach, Rose Mugadza, said they welcomed the decision to play their World Cup qualifier against Ethiopia at home.

The two-legged match was scheduled to be played last month and Zimbabwe was going to play their home tie at a neutral venue after CAF barred Barbourfields, the remaining homologated stadium, from hosting international matches.

The Under -20 national women’s football team were forced to break camp when CAF cancelled all matches due to the novel coronavirus. “It is good for us to play at home, at least that boosts the players’ confidence when they play in front of their supporters and families,” said Mugadza.

The former Mighty Warriors skipper said they were still looking forward to playing good football again once the pandemic was over. Mugadza gave her troops some individual training programmes but was not expecting the young players to strictly follow them.

“We are hoping that we will have enough time to prepare once football resumes,’’ said Mugadza. “I know that not all of them will do the individual workouts we have assigned them and we are just hoping that our domestic leagues will also start soon after COVID-19 so that their fitness will improve.’’

The veteran coach said she was also keeping sane, during this trying period, by occupying herself with house chores and praying. “I am doing house chores, a lot of reading, praying and watching television. “I am watching my diet during this time, having warm water with lemon every morning,” said Mugadza.

The junior national women’s team progressed to the next round of the African qualifiers after they beat Malawi. Two more rounds will determine which two teams from the continent will qualify for the junior global tournament to be held in Costa Rica and Panama.

The tournament was scheduled to be held this August but is likely to be moved to accommodate all the confederations to complete their qualifiers. The senior team, the Mighty Warriors, were also scheduled to begin their Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers first round from today up to April 14.

Zimbabwe was drawn against Mauritius. Should Sithetheliwe “Kwinji 15” and her charges prevail, they will meet the winner between Zambia and Mozambique in the second round, which had been scheduled for June. However, the programme is set to be altered heavily when normalcy returns to football.

The senior team will have a lot of work to do if they want to return to the Africa Women Cup of Nations finals again. They last featured at the Cameroon finals in 2016. Zambia qualified for the Olympics for the first time.

The Summer Games have since been moved to next year. FIFA Confederations working group set up by the governing body have come up with some recommendations, which have since been sent to the FIFA Council, and expected to address all the tournaments’ revised dates.

Source – The Herald

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