ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa continued to live to his pledge to revive the national game when his board yesterday registered the Under-17 and Under-20 teams for the Confederation of African Football competitions scheduled for this year.
Chiyangwa began 2016 on a high note with confirmation that ZIFA yesterday had entered teams for the 2017 African Under-17 and Under-20 Cup of Nations qualifiers.
It is a refreshing development for the domestic game, after the previous ZIFA board had dumped the Young Warriors sides following two embarrassing episodes in 2012 when they failed to send the Under-20 team to Angola for the African Youth Championships.
ZIFA also left the Under-17 squad stranded at the ZIFA Village after failing to fly them to Congo Brazzaville for their youth championships qualifiers.
Despite arguing that the youth teams had not been banned, ZIFA had preferred to just focus on the Warriors and Mighty Warriors assignments with young talent being denied a platform to gauge their strength .
During his campaign trail, Chiyangwa made a promise to ensure interest in the junior game was revived and yesterday the association took a giant step in fulfilling that pledge with revelations that both the Under-17 and Under-20 sides will take crack at qualification for their respective 2017 tournaments.
The 12th edition of the CAF Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations is scheduled for Madagascar while Zambia will host the 20th version of the Under-20 tourney.
Chiyangwa yesterday also told the ZIFA website that he was keen to see the Young Warriors excel.
The Harare property mogul is also aware that the Young Warriors present the perfect platform for identifying and nurturing talent that would graduate into the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Zimbabwe have already been barred from the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after ZIFA failed to pay former Warriors coach Valinhos his dues.
Chiyangwa has, however, made great strides in ensuring that Zimbabwe are not expelled from the World Cup again by securing sponsorship to settle the Tom Saintfiet debt.
The ZIFA boss said junior football should be taken seriously as it is the cornerstone for future successes.
The Young Warriors are set to be included in the draws for both tournaments whose qualifiers should start this year with the finals set for next year.
ZIFA president Phillip Chiyangwa yesterday said it was important that junior football be given priority as the stepping stone for the future success of the Warriors.
“The Development of football begins at a junior stage and we are glad that our young stars will have the chance to shine and showcase their talent when the qualifiers of these important competitions commence,” said Chiyangwa.
The Harare property mogul, who was recently voted into office with a majority vote, also revealed that efforts were being made to support youth football development and junior national teams.
“We have bigger plans to develop youth football and strengthen our junior teams. We registered the Young Warriors so that we can regain our pride as a football powerhouse.
“We need to put our faith in these young players and prepare them to graduate into the senior team.
“Junior football is the cornerstone of football development,” said Chiyangwa.
Long serving juniors coach Jairos Tapera will take charge of the Under-20 side while Tafadzwa Mashiri will head the Under-17 dressing room.
CAF will announce the format of the two competitions in due course.
The teams that will excel at the Africa youth tournaments will go on to represent the continent at the FIFA Youth World Cups.
The Zimbabwe Under-20 side last played in the qualifiers of the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations, then known as the Under-20 Africa Youth Championships, in August 2012 when they lost 1-0 to Angola at Rufaro and then failed to travel to Luanda for the second leg.
ZIFA had failed to raise $35 000 to purchase return air tickets for a delegation of 27 people that included 18 players, technical team and the head of delegation.
The Under-17s also experienced the same fate later the same year when ZIFA failed to send them to Congo-Brazzaville for the return leg of the African Youth Championships qualifiers. Zimbabwe had lost the first leg 2-1 at home.