The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has denied deliberately breaching Caf and Cosafa Under-17 competition rules after the country — along with three others — was disgracefully booted out of the tournament for alleged age cheating.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Other countries disqualified from the event currently underway in South Africa include Botswana, Comoros Islands and Eswatini with the ejected teams missing out on the opportunity to qualify for the 2021 African
Under-17 Cup of Nations.
But the scandal has forced a reset of the competition, which will now start today having initially kicked off on Thursday last week.
Zifa has since appealed the decision to expel the team from the regional age group championship.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) received with great disappointment the correspondence from Cosafa to the effect that our Under-17 team has been disqualified from 2020 edition after one of the players failed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test,” Zifa said in a statement yesterday.
“This is indeed surprising and questionable since we carried out similar tests on the boys and disqualified six for failing to satisfy the bone fusion criteria, taking only those determined to be of the correct age.
“Zifa does not condone age cheating and will conduct further investigations on how the six, who were dropped failed the tests.
“All the boys that travelled for the tournament were tested at a reputable MRI centre in Harare prior to their departure and the centre used a fairly powerful 1.5 T machine. The MRI results were also reviewed by a specialist radiologist, Dr Z Sirdar.
“Our chief medical officer Dr Edward Chagonda is also a CAF certified medical officer. Our team doctor Dr Rabson Zhou, who travelled with the team, has all the test results with him as proof.”
The Zimbabwe Under-17 team coached by Tafadzwa Mashiri had kicked off the Cosafa campaign with a one-all draw against Angola.
Zifa revealed that they have since appealed the decision to expel the national Under-17 team and dared the regional body to reveal the name of the player, who failed the RMI tests.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association is challenging the decision to disqualify our team and has requested Cosafa to avail the name of the player, who is alleged to be over the required age.
“We have appealed against the CAF and Cosafa decision and we are confident that we did not deliberately breach regulations governing the U17 tournament,” Zifa said.
The latest debacle rekindles the bad blood that has characterised relations between the Zifa leadership and Cosafa boss Phillip Chiyangwa in the past couple of years.
At the start of the year the Zifa executive committee was barred from attending the regional soccer-governing body’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Johannesburg allegedly because of outstanding payments and annual subscriptions.
Zifa president Felton Kamambo and Chiyangwa have been at each other’s throats since the former came into office after a surprise victory over the latter in the December 2018 election.
Last year, Zifa was suspended from Cosafa after pulling out of hosting the 2019 edition of the Cosafa Cup, citing inadequate time to organise the competition. Consequently, they were slapped with a US$200 000 fine Cosafa announced a reset of the regional Under-17 tournament as a result of the disqualification of Zimbabwe and three other countries on Friday
The Caf youth competitions committee made the decision to disqualify the teams from the zonal qualifier tournament for the 2021 Africa Under-17 Cup of Nations.