Zimbabwe: Sports Commission Bar Young Warriors

26 November 2020

THE Sports Commission dropped a bombshell yesterday when they barred the Young Warriors from travelling to South Africa for the Under-20 COSAFA tournament.

The country is still trying to come to terms with the disqualification of the Under-17 national team, from the COSAFA Championships, last week, after an age-cheating saga.

Zimbabwe could be handed a US$150 000 fine and suspension from the next two editions of the Under-20 COSAFA tournament if the Young Warriors pull out after having committed themselves to the tourney.

The annual fiesta is scheduled to run between December 3-13 at the Nelson Mandela Bay.

But Zimbabwe, who are in Group A along with the hosts, Mozambique and Lesotho could be forced to withdraw if ZIFA's desperate plea to Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister, Kirsty Coventry, fails to break the impasse.

ZIFA wrote two letters to the SRC seeking clearance for the team's participation at the regional event, which will also act as the zonal qualifier for the 2021 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations.

On October 9, ZIFA wrote to the SRC seeking a blanket clearance for all the national teams with imminent international assignments, including the Under-20 men's team, the Warriors as well as the Mighty Warriors and Young Mighty Warriors.

But, the follow-up letter they wrote seeking clearance for the Under-20 side was thrown out by the SRC on grounds that the association had failed to abide by the set regulations for sports tours outside the country in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Please be advised that this tour is NOT APPROVED for failure to abide by the set regulations for sport tours outside the country.

"As previously advised, all approvals for foreign tours in this Covid-19 pandemic era require approvals from the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation and the Minister of Health and Child Care.

"Please, further note that all unapproved tours must not be undertaken and any failure to abide by the same will result in the commission invoking the necessary disciplinary measures in terms of the Sports and Recreation Commission Act."

Some of the regulations include the submission of the travelling party 21 days before the competition or the first day of the tournament.

But in their letter, ZIFA had argued it was virtually impossible to do so due to logistics involved, including the need to sort out travel documents, especially given this is an age-group team involved.

"As a follow-up to our clearance request, sent to your office on 9 October 2020 regarding our participation in an Under-20 boys tournament organised by COSAFA, we hereby submit the intricate details of the provisional delegation set to travel to South Africa on 30 November 2020," ZIFA wrote in their letter.

"We are cognisant of your request for us to send complete delegations earlier than we do, but we would like to draw your attention to the reason why it was impossible for us to do so.

"We cannot ascertain the actual delegation until a provisional list of players has been called up, and this normally happens only 14 days before the match date, or the first match of any tournament.

"For that reason, we can only submit a full delegation list for clearance,when everyone involved has confirmed their commitment.

"Also, we have instances where players called up have to apply for travel documents while in camp, and their details will be incomplete for clearance requests."

The Under-20 squad are in camp and coach Tonderai Ndiraya and his men will be hoping there could be a break to the impasse.

Article 18:8 of the 2020 COSAFA Under-20 boys zonal tournament Rules and Regulations state that:

"Withdrawal from the tournament by a participating association, notified less than twenty days before the start of the tournament or during it will entail, in addition to the loss of the entry fee, a fine of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars (US$150 000) as well as the suspension of the relevant National Association for next two editions of the tournament, except in cases of force majeure as determined by the organising committee."

ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela last night confirmed the association had received the SRC correspondence and sent their appeal to Coventry.

"We confirm that we have received correspondence from SRC not approving the Under-20 team to travel to South Africa.

"We are disappointed by the decision and we have since appealed to the Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry," he said.

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