No Cosafa for Zim . . . government spurns Zifa's plans

HARARE - Broke Zimbabwe government yesterday turned its back on the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) as it shot down its bid to host the 2019 Cosafa Cup arguing that the association had given them short notice to stage the regional soccer tournament.

Zifa last year submitted a bid to host the biggest regional competition and Cosafa had accepted the offer.

The government, however, declined to issue Zifa with a guarantee to underwrite the competition.

Sports minister Kirsty Coventry told a media gathering that they were unable to extend support to Zifa because they had approached them at the 11th hour.

“…we have had some deliberations with the Zifa president around the hosting of Cosafa and it’s been agreed that at this time the deal was just not very good for the country and for Zifa. So we will not be hosting the Cosafa Cup this year,” Coventry said.

“But we look forward to have adequate time to be able to host a world-class event in the near future.  

“We want to make sure that when we do host an event of this magnitude we are fully prepared, we have good timing and we just felt that was not given to us this time around. So moving forward we will continue to work closely with Zifa in terms of what the next steps are and what the future holds in terms of hosting the event.

“…to host a bigger event we want to make sure that it benefits Zifa, it benefits Zimbabwe as a country, it benefits our people. As of right now the final documents were only signed late January and as far as we are all concerned that’s just not enough time to host.

“The hosts for next year really know that they are hosts and they have an entire year to plan and we feel that it is as extremely important that we as a country get that time and that respect to be able to prepare and deliver an event that we will be proud of.”

Zifa president Felton Kamambo said his association accepts the decision by the government but crucially, they “will send a team to participate wherever the tournament will be held”.

“As Zifa our team will participate in the competition wherever it’s going to be held. We will try and bid for future hosting of the Cosafa Cup that is from maybe 2021 forwards so that we will have enough time like what the minister has alluded,” Kamambo said.

Sunday Chidzambwa’s men were looking to maximise on home advantage for an unprecedented three successive Cosafa Cup titles having won the previous two editions in South Africa. Zimbabwe are the record Cosafa Cup winners having won the regional tournament on six occasions.

With the continental soccer showpiece — Africa Cup of Nations — set for June/July, this year’s edition of the Cosafa Cup is being seen as an opportunity for the regional teams to fine tune their squads ahead of the Afcon finals set for Egypt.

Warriors need at least a draw in their last match against Congo next month to seal a place at the Afcon.

All the four teams in Group G — Zimbabwe, Liberia, DRC and Congo  — still have a chance of qualifying for the tournament to be held in Egypt from June 15 to July 13.

A defeat against Congo at home at the National Sports Stadium will see the Warriors bowing out on head to head should the other match between DRC and Liberia produce a winner.

Currently, Warriors top the group with eight points while Liberia are in second place with seven points with Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with six points while Congo anchor the group with five points from five matches.

And ahead of an important tie against Congo next month Zifa has already put the tickets on sale with fans who intend to watch the Warriors’ tie having to dig deep into their pockets for as much as $200 for the VVIP ticket.

The VVIP ticket rose four-fold from the previous price of $50 when Zimbabwe hosted Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) last October.

Entrance fees to the bays 15-18 also rose from $10 to $50, while the cheapest ticket for the rest of the ground will be $10.