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Govt investigating debacle

Tino Machakaire

Grace Chingoma

Senior Sports Reporter

THE Government is investigating the debacle that led to the disqualification of the Young Warriors from the COSAFA Championship over an age-cheating scandal.

The Botswana Football Association have already suspended their chief executive, Mfolo Mfolo, over the same age-cheating scandal.

Their Under-17 national youth team were also expelled from the tournament.

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The Eswatini and Comoros Under-17 national teams were also thrown out of the tournament.

The Eswatini authorities have promised action and have made it clear heads will roll.

“The Ministry takes this moment to apologise to all Emaswatini for the huge embarrassment that this matter has brought to the country,’’ the Eswatini authorities said.

“The ministry, on behalf of His Majesty’s government, wishes to make it clear that it strongly condemns any form of cheating in sport and will stop at nothing to ensure that all who were involved in such, and cheating in its entirety, are removed from our sport.”

With the championships being used by the Confederation of African Football, as qualifiers for their Under-17 championships, this is a huge blow for the expelled nations. Interestingly, the BFA said they deliberately sent in players between the ages of 14 and 15 to prepare a national team which, in about two years’ time, will be able to represent the country well at the Under-17 championships.

“According to our protocols, in terms of team selection, we target players of 14 to 15 years so that they are in our structures of the team for, at least, a two-year cycle,’’ the BFA said.

“We ask the nation, and the entire football fraternity, to remain calm as we await a full report from CAF and COSAFA.

“The BFA NEC has, with immediate effect, set up a three-man team to investigate the issue and we expect them to give us findings within a week’s time.

“The BFA has also suspended its CEO, Mfolo Mfolo, pending completion of the investigations.’’ ZIFA said the Young Warriors were expected home yesterday.

“The Zimbabwe Football Association would like to inform the football fraternity and the nation that ZIFA has not received any response from CAF, following our appeal against the disqualification our Under-17 team from this year’s edition of the COSAFA Youth Championship,’’ the association spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said in a statement.

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“COSAFA has insisted that in the absence of communication from CAF, the expulsion stands and the team should travel back to Zimbabwe.

“Consequently, the team will return home (yesterday).

“This does not mean that ZIFA has abandoned its appeal against disqualification, but we have taken this decision to avoid further straining the committed and innocent Young Warriors whose premature exit was disappointing and questionable.

“The Association would like to express its gratitude to all Zimbabweans who have supported the indefatigable Young Warriors whose participation in the COSAFA tournament was promising.

“ZIFA would like to reiterate that the Executive Committee remains committed in developing the beautiful game in the country.’’ The Government said it is conducting investigations into the issue.

Youth, Sport, Art and Recreation deputy minister, Tino Machakaire, said they did not condone any underhand dealings and were disappointed with the expulsion of the Young Warriors.

“As a ministry, we were very disappointed to learn of the disqualification of our Under-17 boys,’’ he said.

“The boys have a lot of potential and are playing quite well. This development is a setback that will affect their play.

“We are currently looking into the matter. However, let me state that as a Ministry we do not condone corruption of any sort, or any underhand dealings.

“I can firmly assure you that this matter will be duly resolved.’’

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Team manager, Prosper Kadewere, said the Young Warriors had been deflated by the developments.

Meanwhile, the Under-20 national team were forced to find a new training ground yesterday when the artificial pitch at the ZIFA Village was stripped off.

The turf, which was installed from funding secured from FIFA, was auctioned five years ago to settle a debt owed to former ZIFA spokesperson, Nicky Dhlamini-Moyo.

It now belongs to Tynwald Secondary School. The Under-20 team, who are camped at the ZIFA Village, have been using the pitches there for their training sessions.

However, it all changed yesterday when the artificial surface was stripped off by those who bought it.

The Young Warriors, who are under the guidance of coach Tonderai Ndiraya, will compete at the COSAFA tournament, which again will be staged at the Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth, from December 3 to 13. They are in Group A, alongside hosts South Africa, Mozambique and Lesotho.

Zimbabwe last won the COSAFA championships in 2007.

However, the Young Warriors appear to have lost their way in recent years.

They were humiliated 1-5 by Zambia in South Africa in 2016 and, after a goalless draw against Malawi, crashed out in the first round.

HERALD