A depleted Zimbabwe side finished in a commendable 14th place out of 40 teams that participated at the 2018 Homeless World Cup football tournament, which concluded in Mexico City last weekend.
BY Munyaradzi Madzokere
A total of 52 teams, 12 of which were female teams, participated at this year’s event, which was won by hosts Mexico, in both the men’s and ladies’ competitions.
Zimbabwe were making their seventh appearance at the Homeless World Cup since the tournament began in 2003 in Austria and bettered their previous best performance of 15th place out of 48 countries in Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 2015.
Due to lack of funds, Zimbabwe ended up sending a five-member squad that included Douglas Masiyazi, Ngonidzashe Fero, Tungamirai Chauruka, Simbarashe Marembo and James Jasi.
The team arrived back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.
“It was a very exciting tournament and we managed to perform well above expectations finishing in 14th place out of 40 countries that participated in the male category,” Young Achievement Sports Development (YASD) communications officer Joe Kaseka told The Sports Hub.
YASD are the organisers of the Homeless World Cup selection in Zimbabwe.
For the first time at the tournament, Zimbabwe had a player living with albinism in Masiyazi.
“Masiyazi had a good experience in Mexico although he struggled with his eyesight to some extent. He was an important member of the team and related very well with the rest of team. In fact, he was the star of the show in our last game against Peru coming from the bench to score twice, but we eventually lost the match,” Kaseka added.
“However, the trip was not about the result, but to give talented under-privileged people exposure to the outside world so that they can strive to change their circumstances. Already the boys have been talking positively about their future as a result of this experience and this is what we want, to impact lives,” he added.
Two of Zimbabwe’s players, goalkeeper Marembo and captain Fero, were awarded the Whistle of Hope for outstanding performances during the tournament.
Marembo was also in the running for goalkeeper of the tournament and narrowly missed out on the accolade.
Pearl Gambiza, who was the team manager, was also recognised by the tournament organisers for her contribution to the team.
According to Kaseka, focus is already shifting to the 2019 Homeless World to be held in Wales.
“We realise that we do not have much time because the Wales World Cup will be held in July and so we are beginning preparations right away. By February we should have completed our selection for both the men and women teams. We want to start fundraising right away to avoid the lastminute pressure we had preparing for Mexico,” he said.