TWO years ago, the nation was shocked to learn that the women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, was being fed on boiled pumpkin leaves and Kapenta fish while in camp for the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations qualifier against Botswana in March 2014.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
A year later in August 2015, Zimbabwe’s Under-23 football team, the Young Warriors, had to buy their own food while in camp after they were locked out of their lodgings ahead of the CAF Under-23 Championships qualifier against South Africa, following failure by the then Zimbabwe Football Association leadership to settle their bills.
Instead of being in camp, the 23-year-olds had to walk into town to get loaves of bread to share among themselves as Zifa had also failed to provide them with food, while they settled their matter with the lodge in question.
Only last week, it was the young athletes who converged in Bulawayo, Victoria Falls and Hwange for the Zimbabwe Youth Games who were fed unpalatable meals.
The athletes whose ages ranged between 18 to 20 years, were reportedly fed on beans and fresh milk during breakfast, lunch and supper.
The result was a disaster as some of them missed competition after suffering from diarrhoea, while others were said to have missed their events as there was no fuel for transport to competition venues.
To those who follow Zimbabwean sport, these events were nothing new. the country’s sporting history is littered with even worse incidents, including a situation when the Warriors had to move themselves out of Zifa village because they claimed they were sharing rooms with rats.
As Zimbabwe prepares to host the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Championships, it would be a national embarrassment should something like that happen to the 13 teams coming for the regional women’s soccer tournament.
As hosts, Zimbabwe are in charge of all the logistics involved and it would be saddening to see this women’s soccer tournament turn into a disaster due to poor organisation.
What would that say about Zimbabwe should the entire Swaziland team miss their game after suffering from diarrhoea due to the food they would have been fed on?
What would that say about Zimbabwe should the Namibian players come up to say they did not get enough sleep because rats were racing the whole night in their rooms?
What would that say about Zimbabwe should the games’ scheduled kickoff be delayed or matches cancelled because there was no transport to take the match officials to the venue?
Organisers should make sure that even helpers are well-fed and paid so that they do not down tools during the course of the tournament.
Even the Mighty Warriors —this time around — should get proper meals and better accommodation in order for them to put up good performances that would see them reach at least the semi-finals to keep crowd interest in the competition.
This Cosafa Women’s Championship is a test case for Zimbabwe to prove that the country is capable of hosting even bigger events like the Confederation of African Football or co-hosting future editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.
The southern African block, and in particular its president Philip Chiyangwa, has been very vocal in the corridors of Caf and all attention will be on Zimbabwe to see whether the region delivers the same way it talks.
Zimbabwe last hosted this Cosafa Women’s tournament in 2011 and that time it was a good show. The onus is now on the small southern African country to go a notch higher and produce a show many would talk about for years to come.
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