THE Zimbabwe national Under-23 will no longer have to worry about Senegal in their route to the African Under-23 Championship as the West Africans were handed the tournament hosting rights by CAF and will not take part in the qualifiers.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Initial hosts Democratic Republic of Congo have been disqualified after relinquishing the mandate to host the tournament to focus on next year’s Presidential elections.
Senegal were standing in the Warriors’ path in the third round had Zimbabwe sailed past Swaziland and South Africa in the first and second rounds respectively.
The tournament will be played in December with the top three teams qualifying for next year’s Olympic Games.
CAF competitions deputy director Khaled Nassar confirmed Senegal’s pulling out.
“Following the withdrawal of DR Congo from the organisation of the tournament which is now organised by Senegal, Senegal is not participating in the qualifiers. Now that Senegal is not playing the qualifiers, the winner of Zimbabwe/Swaziland vs South Africa will qualify directly to the final tournament [according to CAF Executive Committee decision],” said Nassar.
The Young Warriors will now begin the qualifiers at the second round against Swaziland with the winner meeting South Africa in the final stage of qualification.
Memories of 2011 have struck again after South Africa denied Zimbabwe qualification for the last edition of the Olympics by beating the Young Warriors in the third round.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s intention to send the Under-23s to next month’s Cosafa Cup is in serious doubt as the tournament clashes with the African Under-23 Championship qualifiers.
The Young Warriors host Swaziland on the weekend of May 22-24 for the first round, first leg before visiting their regional counterparts the following weekend, while the Cosafa Cup has been scheduled to run from May 17-30.
The development has also thrown Zifa into a conundrum on the coaches to lead either side but indications are that Kalisto Pasuwa will travel to the Cosafa Cup while Saul Chaminuka will lead the Under-23s.
“We wanted to use the U-23s for both the Cosafa and the U-23 Championship, but we have an unfortunate scenario of dates that are clashing. We will come with a position by Tuesday latest on which team to use for Cosafa and the U23 Championship,” said Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela.
With Zifa constrained to arrange international friendlies before the 2017 Afcon qualifiers begin in June, there is wisdom in sending the senior side to Cosafa to allow the assessment of some overseas-based players who will be off-season.
It would also be an opportunity for the coaches to have a look at Premier Soccer League players at Cosafa in preparation for the 2016 African Nations Championship qualifiers which also commence in June.
Northern neighbours Zambia have already named their Cosafa squad in which they have included veteran Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene.
Chipolopolo will also enjoy the services of AmaZulu forward Bornwell Mwape and Mukuka Mulenga who also plays in South Africa for Bloemfontein Celtic.