THE postponement of the CAF African Women Cup of Nations qualifiers, which had been set to get underway in the first week of next month, could prove to be a blessing in disguise for our Mighty Warriors.
Our senior national women’s football side were set to host their colleagues from Eswatini, in the first leg of the first round of the qualifiers, between June 5-7, before taking on the same opponents, in the reverse fixture, a week later.
A victory over Eswatini would then hand the Mighty Warriors a ticket to take on the team which wins the first round showdown, between Angola and Botswana, for a place at the AFCON finals, in Morocco, next year.
The ZIFA plan had been for our team to get into camp in Harare yesterday, where coach Sithethelewe ‘’Kwinji 15’’ Sibanda and her lieutenants, would have drilled the players on an intense two-week programme, to prepare for the match against Eswatini.
However, on the eve of the day the players were scheduled to report into camp, CAF announced the qualifiers have been moved to September, because of concerns of the state of stadiums, in a number of countries, and the threat still posed by the global pandemic.
A number of countries, who are taking part in the qualifiers, have had their stadiums flagged by the CAF ground committee, which means they would have been forced to play their matches on neutral soil, had the qualifiers proceeded, as scheduled, next month.
And, given many African countries are still implementing tough border restrictions, to try and combat the threat still posed by Covid-19, it was never going to be an easy task for two countries to take their match, into a third country, for these qualifiers.
Air travel, too, remains a concern, throughout the continent, and forcing a number of countries, whose stadiums have not been approved, to take their matches to neutral settings, would have ended with a chaotic situation.
There is also the moral issue that all the countries should be given, as much as time can allow, the opportunity to address their facilities so that they can also host their matches, at home, which comes with a certain psychological advantage.
By forcing them to host their home matches, at neutral grounds, it means that the playing field, in terms of the qualifiers, would have been titled, and it’s something that taints the spirit of the competition.
These are the same reasons the CAF bosses were forced to postpone the opening group qualifiers of the 2022 World Cup matches, across the continent, from next month, to September.
Some voices, though, have criticised the decision, saying it takes away a golden opportunity for most of the countries to have the luxury of using their Europe-based players, who will be having the annual off-season break, in June.
For the Mighty Warriors, though, the developments could also be a blessing in disguise because it provides us with the window, which we needed, to prepare for the qualifiers.
We agree with the sentiments by their team manager, Tafadzwa Bhasera, that they will now have more time to prepare for the matches and, given the players have been inactive for a long time, we couldn’t have asked for a better arrangement.
“It gives the girls more time to prepare and, hopefully by then, the league would have kicked off, given the women’s league could be kicking off, anytime soon,’’ said Bhasera.
“I am sure it also gives ample time for the coaches to now prepare a formidable team if I may say.
“It’s more of an advantage to us.’’
Our players have not been active for more than a year now and, as shown when we sent an ill-prepared team to the COSAFA Cup last year, which came back without a win, or a goal to their credit, such an arrangement tends to backfire badly.
It’s one thing getting footballers into camp, for even a month, but it’s another thing for them to have the match fitness, and the rhythm, which comes with playing competitive matches, on a regular basis.
This is an area where our Mighty Warriors have been found wanting, since the domestic game was halted by Covid-19 last year, and the questionable leadership, in charge of women’s football at national level, hasn’t helped matters, either.
When businesswoman Barbra Chikosi took over as the leader of women’s football in this country, after securing a slot on the ZIFA board two years ago, we all believed that she would bring a lot of value to this wing of our national game.
After all, she had shown a lot of passion to help women football, even before she became the leader but, we find it regrettable to say that her leadership has failed the game, with little coming from her, and her team, to suggest that they have the quality to make a difference.
We even don’t know what the US$500 000, which came from FIFA specifically to help women’s football, was used for since the domestic game remains frozen.
Instead, we have seen chaos, all over the show, with rebellion, among the clubs, the order of the day where more time is being spent in the boardroom fights, rather than bringing the game back into life so that our players can return to action.
Five years ago, the Mighty Warriors were just one of the two African nations, which played at the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil, which was a demonstration of the quality, which lies in abundance, in this country.
We need to go back to those levels because, as one analyst put it, the Mighty Warriors, if given the right support, have better chances of getting to the World Cup, than the Warriors.