Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BARBOURFIELDS Stadium will play host two World Cup preliminary rounds for the girls’ Under-17s and Under-20 teams next month in the first of many international games the venue will host this year after other stadiums were condemned by the Caf grounds inspection team.
After the National Sports Stadium, Rufaro Stadium and Mandava Stadium were barred from hosting international matches, all Fifa and Caf sanctioned matches will be played at Barbourfields Stadium.
The girls’ Under-17 side is already in camp at Eveline High School preparing for the first-leg against Botswana away between January 10 and 12, with the return leg scheduled for the weekend of January 24 to 26 at Barbourfields.
The Under-20 team is expected to start its preparations for its away game against Malawi between January 17 to 19 this Thursday and will camp at the Zifa village. The return leg will be played between January 31 and February 2 at Barbourfields.
Xolisani Gwesela, the Zifa communications manager, said: “We are starting the year with two World Cup preliminary qualifiers against Botswana and Malawi. Everything is in place for the teams’ camps.
“As for travelling arrangements for the Under-17 girls’ team that is camping in Bulawayo, we will know them once the Botswana FA confirms the actual match date and venue.”
The Under-17s camp started last Friday and is under the guidance of coach Guthrie Chipuka, who raised concern over the fitness level of most of the players. Most of the players haven’t been active while others don’t have passports, most certainly ruling them out of selection.
“What we’ve been doing is to measure the girls’ technical abilities. Basically, we want to see where they are tactically because these players will be under different coaches and mostly teachers during the year. We’ve seen how they are and have started working on the system that we want to play that suits the players’ capabilities as well as combinations.
The Under-17s haven’t been active for some time now and a return to competitive action is something positive for the girls.
Zimbabwe blew a golden opportunity to prepare their developmental teams when they snubbed the Cosafa Under-17 and Under-20 tournaments, with Zifa citing the prevailing economic challenges for the pull out.
The decision came against the backdrop of frosty relations between Zifa and the regional body after the former’s attempts to recall Cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa were rejected.
Zimbabwe were not represented in the inaugural edition of the girls’ Under-17 finals to be held in Mauritius from September 20-29.
Under-17 provisional squad
Plaxedes Mutanda, Martia Nyanhete, Mavis Vhera, Lorraine Mpasi, Margret Kanjekete, Nosipho Dube, Praynence Zvawanda, Thando Sibanda, Natalie Mbavha, Ntandoyenkosi Moyo, Melody Chikore, Aliyah Utumbe, Deon Gonya, Tadiwanahse Taderera, Pamela Nkomo, Patience Nkomo, Lebhukani Dongo, Sancia Zvikomborero, Tariro Chirume, Thandiwe Msipa, Sisa Ndebele, Nozipho Khumalo, Nokukhanya Ndlovu, Tinotenda Dhaurai, Priscilla Marikosi, Catherine Gwangware, Morelife Nyagumpo, Alice Moyo. — @ZililoR.