By Michael Kariati
The Zimbabwe Football Association is set to bring back the biggest football competition, the Zifa Cup, after more than a decade of absence.
The tournament was last contested for in 2005 as the Zifa Unity Cup and won by Masvingo United who overcame Highlanders 3-1 on penalties after the two teams had been deadlocked at one-all in regulation time.
Since then, successive Zifa leaderships have come along the way, promising to bring back the popular competition only to leave office before that promise was fulfilled.
However, Zifa president Felton Kamambo has revealed that they would be bringing back the nationwide competition, and promised an exciting return of the competition that was first staged in 1962 as the Castle Cup.
“The Zifa Cup is definitely on our cards this year. It will be bigger and better than in the past,” said Kamambo.
Kamambo’s revelation comes amid calls by football followers for an increase in knockout tournaments to add to excitement in the football show as they are only restricted to one serious knockout tournament the whole year, the Chibuku Super Cup, which is for Castle Lager Premier Soccer League teams only.
Unlike the Chibuku Super Cup, traditionally the Zifa Cup in Zimbabwe draws its participation from all the football teams in the country including social football teams.
In fact, the winners of the Zifa Cup qualify to represent Zimbabwe in the Caf Confederation Cup, previously the African Cup Winners’ Cup.
That honour at the moment belongs to the Chibuku Super Cup having been vested in the Mbada Diamonds Cup and prior to that in the CBZ Cup.
Former Dynamos striker Simon Chuma expressed delight at the possible return of the Zifa Cup.
“We enjoyed this tournament because it gave us the chance to travel and play against teams, which we didn’t know they ever existed. It was refreshing to see how determined those small teams wanted to beat us,” said Chuma.
Chuma said although he had retired from active football, he would love to play in the Zifa Cup and probably against his old team, DeMbare, as he was still playing social soccer.
Former Falhorn FC owner and striker Fabion Mahembe also remembers the year 2002 when his social soccer team Falhorn defied all odds and reached the third round of the competition after beating Chrome Stars who were then in the premiership.
The social club actually won away from home at Mbizo Stadium in Kwekwe.
“That was one of the proudest moments of my life. When I think of that, I feel a sense of pride. Those were the days. I hope when the tournament comes back, another boozers’ team would be able to do that again,” said Mahembe.
The tournament was an easier way for Zifa to make money as matches always guaranteed huge crowds due to the fixtures, which attracted families seeking fun.
Matches were also spread to such remote areas as Binga, Muzarabani, Sanyati, Chakari, Bubi, Buhera, Bikita, Gutu and Gwanda.
Caps United have won the highest number of Zifa Cup trophies with eight titles including four consecutive wins from 1980 to 1983. They also won it in 2004 when it was renamed the Zifa Unity Cup.
Dynamos have won it on six occasions while Highlanders have won it three times.
Bulawayo Rovers were the first winners of the Zifa Cup, then the Castle Cup, in 1962, when they overcame Salisbury City 1-0 in the final.
Ironically, Dynamos were formed a year later from players who left Salisbury City and Salisbury United unhappy with the way they were being treated at those clubs.