Zimbabwe: Rhinos Queens in Anxious Wait

BLACK Rhinos Queens' are likely to plunge into the inaugural CAF Women's Champions League without adequate preparations.

The army side is still to get the greenlight to start training, ahead of a preliminary zonal eliminator, which takes place in South Africa, in less than a month.

They are expected to be part of the inaugural edition of the COSAFA Women's Champions League, from August 26 to September 4.

The tourney will represent the region, at the finals of the continental club championships, to be held in Egypt, later this year.

The draw for the COSAFA Women's Champions League takes place in Johannesburg today.

Rhinos are expected to go into the hat, with six other teams from the region, to find out which clubs they will face, at the zonal tournament. The host city for the competition will also be unveiled at the draw, as the champions from women's domestic leagues across the region fight it out for honours, in COSAFA's first ever club tournament.

The seven-team field contains South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, Double Action Ladies (Botswana), Manzini Wanderers LFC (Eswatini), Lesotho Defence Force (Lesotho), Tyra Magic (Namibia), Green Buffaloes FC (Zambia) and Black Rhino Queens. The teams will be split into two groups, one with four sides and the other with three, with the top two teams in each pool, advancing to the semi-finals.

Rhinos Queens last played competitive football two years ago.

They have been grounded since 2019 due to the Covid-19 lockdowns.

Women's football failed to get underway in Zimbabwe, when the window was briefly opened, due to administrative bungling.

The leadership failed to organise games despite the provision of a US$500 000 grant by FIFA to help kick-start the women's game.

Sport has been suspended again in Zimbabwe, following the spike in coronavirus cases, and the extension of the Covid-19 lockdown measures, this week.

Rhinos had applied for a special waiver, to allow them to train while observing strict health protocols, but their request has been rejected.

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said Rhinos Queens and FC Platinum, who are set to participate in the CAF Champions League in September, have been instructed to wait a bit longer.

"Unfortunately, they have not been granted permission to start training," he said.

"We asked the authorities at the Sports Commission and they told us sport is still suspended because of the extended coronavirus lockdown measures.

"It's Government policy and we stand guided by the authorities."

Rhinos Queens were picked to represent Zimbabwe because they were the last to win the domestic Super League in 2019.

COSAFA General Secretary, Sue Destombes, said they are going ahead with the draw for the zonal eliminator, today.

"We are delighted to be hosting the first ever COSAFA Women's Champions League, which has been a competition we had been hoping to add to our calendar for some time," said Destombes.

"Women's football is certainly coming on in leaps and bounds in Africa and we are excited to be playing our part in that.

"We certainly see this as a competition that will grow much bigger in the years to come and will be a fantastic platform for our players in the region."

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