Disgraced Young Warriors jet in under protest
Zimbabwe’s Under-17 football team are set to return to Zimbabwe today, albeit under protest.
This comes after the Confederation of African Football (CAF), did entertain an appeal lodged by the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) seeking a rescission of COSAFA’s earlier judgement.
COSAFA disqualified Zimbabwe from the 2020 edition after one of the team’s players failed a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test.
ZIFA said the decision was surprising and questionable as they carried out similar tests on the boys and disqualified six for failing to satisfy the bone fusion criteria, taking only those determined to be of the correct age.
ZIFA insists that all the players that travelled for the tournament were tested at a reputable MRI centre in Harare prior to their departure and the centre used a fairly powerful 1.5 T machine.
“The MRI results were also reviewed by a Specialist Radiologist, Dr Z Sirdar. Our team doctor Dr Rabson Zhou who travelled with the team has all the test results with him as proof,” ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said.
ZIFA challenged the decision to disqualify the team and requested COSAFA to avail the name of the player who is alleged to be over the required age.
They received no response from CAF, prompting the team to travel back to Harare.
“ZIFA has not received any response from the Confederation of African Football (CAF), following our appeal against the disqualification our Under 17 team from this year’s edition of the COSAFA Youth Championship,” Gwesela said.
“COSAFA has insisted that in the absence of communication from CAF, the expulsion stands and the team should travel back to Zimbabwe. The ongoing tournament also serves as the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals.”
“Consequently, the team will return home Monday. This does not mean that ZIFA has abandoned its appeal against disqualification, but we have taken this decision to avoid further straining the committed and innocent Young Warriors whose premature exit was disappointing and questionable.”
More frustratingly for the teenagers is that COSAFA’s medical compliance officer Thulani Ngwenya has said that the MRI scans have “nothing to do with age but are eligibility tests which don’t determine whether you are older than 17.”
The disqualification of Zimbabwe along with Botswana, Comoros Islands and Eswatini from the 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship on the basis of fielding over-age players forced a reset of the competition.
The 2020 COSAFA Men’s Under-17 Championship restarted as a four-team tournament on Sunday and is being played on a round-robin basis, with the top two teams advancing to a final on November 29.
Hosts South Africa opened their campaign against Malawi. Before that Angola and Zambia clashed midday on Sunday.
The matches played before the restart were regarded as warm-up games and will have no bearing on the new tournament format.
There are also fixtures on Tuesday and Thursday, before the final positions are decided next Sunday, including a third-fourth play-off.
The two sides that reach the final based on their position in the group will have already achieved one ambition by qualifying for the Cup of Nations that is scheduled for Morocco in the middle of next year.