Zimbabwe: Zifa Withdraw From All Youth Tourneys

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIFA have said they are withdrawing from all youth international tournaments this year to concentrate on the reintroduction of grassroots football.

The association's spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said they were investing in grassroots and youth football.

The national youth teams performed dismally, at the COSAFA tournaments held in South Africa last year, which ruled them out of contention for the upcoming AFCON and World Cup tournaments for both the Under-17 and Under-20 men and women.

The men's Under-17 side were disqualified after one of the players failed an age eligibility test. ZIFA's announcement, however, comes when there have no scheduled youth international matches for this year.

"The Association is now firmly laying the ground work for football resumption and has quietly invested a lot towards grassroots, youth and women football in 2021 and beyond details of which shall be announced soon," said Gwesela.

"The ZIFA Board has decided not to partake in any international youth tournaments this year but rather shall focus in building future youth national teams by kick-starting both the boys and girls Under-15 and Under-17 provincial youth leagues, as well as grassroots football, to resume as soon as authorisation is granted by responsible authorities.

"ZIFA would like to thank several well-meaning stakeholders, who have supported the association in many different ways, and we shall continue defending the game that is loved by so many of our compatriots.

"We call for a unity of purpose as we are one people with one flag."

ZIFA's grand plan to revive structured junior football countrywide was dealt a huge blow by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic last year. Both the launch, at national level, and start of the league, were postponed indefinitely, following the implementation of the coronavirus lockdown measures.

But, Gwesela said the plans were set to be put into motion once Government gives the greenlight. Previous ZIFA leaders have been accused of failing to give due attention to the development of football at grassroots level.

This has been attributed to Zimbabwe's failure to make an impact on the international front.

ZIFA announced, two years ago, that they had committed part of their development funds from FIFA to purchase football gear, including training and playing kits, balls, bibs, cones, trophies, magnetic clipboards, gloves and medals.

The material has benefited domestic football at all levels, from the established Premier Soccer League, Women's Super League, lower divisions, beach soccer, youth football for both boys and girls, beach soccer and Futsal.

ZIFA have plans to establish 10 clubs per region, which translates to 40 clubs in all regions, for both boys and girls.

They want to start with the Under-15 football leagues and then expand the structure by ensuring the players graduate into the Under-17 and Under-19 leagues, in the next two years.

ZIFA are borrowing from successful development models from South Africa and Zambia.

To ensure effective development of emerging talent, only ZIFA-licensed coaches, who hold CAF C or Level Two badges, will be allowed to take charge of the teams.

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