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Outrage over Young Warriors withdrawal

THE cash-strapped Phillip Chiyangwa-led Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has come under fire for its recent decision to gamble with the future of local football by opting for the withdrawal of the national Under-17 team from continental and regional competitions, citing budgetary constraints.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The local football governing body did not register to take part in the Cosafa Under-17 Youth Championships which kicked off on Friday in Mauritius and also withdrew the Young Warriors from the CAF Under-17 Africa Nations Cup qualifiers, citing financial challenges.

The unpopular decision which is in stark contrast to Chiyangwa’s development pledges as annunciated in his colourful manifesto when he ran for office last year has sparked outrage from the football fraternity, the loudest being former Zifa presidential aspirant and board member Nigel Munyati.

Munyati, one of the founding directors of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy famed for producing quality footballers such as Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona, yesterday hit out at the local football mother body for neglecting the future of the local game.

“I think it’s very tragic that our football administrators are failing to appreciate the importance of developing Zimbabwe football because you don’t develop players who are 27 or 28; you need to go right down at the bottom up to the Under 23s,” Munyati told The StandardSport in an interview yesterday.

Interestingly, the Zifa leadership seems to be expending all efforts on dissolving the debt-ridden association in order to sidestep its creditors who are owed over $6 million at the expense of its key obligations, which include ensuring national teams fulfil regional and continental assignments.

The initial bid to dissolve Zifa and replace it with the National Football Association of Zimbabwe (Nafaz) was foiled by government as proper procedures had not been followed.
The Young Warriors’ participation in the Cosafa Under-17 Youth Championships and the CAF Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations presented the perfect platform for identifying and nurturing talent that would graduate into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Zimbabwe has already been barred from the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after Zifa failed to pay former Warriors coach Valinhos his dues.

“If you are depriving them the opportunity of playing in tournaments like the Cosafa Under-17 or the Africa Under-17 championship qualifiers you are denying them an opportunity to get exposure at international level at a crucial stage in their young careers. The end result is you’re killing the future of Zimbabwe football. We might say they don’t care because we have already qualified for next year’s Afcon but what happens after that?” Munyati said.

He said the Chiyangwa-led executive was repeating the same mistakes made by the Cuthbert Dube executive.

The Dube-led leadership was vilified after dumping the Young Warriors sides following two embarrassing episodes in 2012 when the national Under-20 team failed to travel to Angola to fulfil an Africa Youth Championship qualifier.

Zifa had also left the national Under-17 team stranded at the Zifa Village after failing to fly them to Congo Brazzaville for their youth championships qualifiers.

Since then Zifa preferred to focus only on the Warriors and Mighty Warriors assignments, with young talent being denied a platform to gauge their strength.

Now the Chiyangwa-led executive, having made promises that it would be a thing of the past are now repeating the same mistakes.

“We thought the new administration would do things differently after making promises to do better, but they have gone on to do exactly the same if not worse, because at least the Dube leadership tried but the current leadership gave up without even making an effort,” Munyati said.

“To me, it’s more lack of interest than genuine shortage of funds. They should have at least made an effort to fundraise. It exposes a current administration that doesn’t care about football.”

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