No place for Mighty Warriors at AWCON

Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter

MIGHTY Warriors regional rivals Banyana Banyana and Zambia will be aiming for the Africa Women Cup of Nations title when the 14th edition of the continental show-piece gets underway this weekend in Morocco.

Zimbabwe failed to qualify for the CAF tournament after they finished 3-3 on aggregate against Botswana in February. The Batswana side advanced to the finals on away goals rule for the first time.

Even if the Zimbabwean national team would have qualified they will still be going to be kicked out of the tournament after FIFA suspended ZIFA from international football in March.

Zimbabwe and South Africa national women’s teams represented the continent at the 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil. While Zambia were at last year’s rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.

Although the fortunes of Banyana Banyana and She-polopolo continue to improve it is not the same for the Mighty Warriors whose fortunes have taken a knock since they featured at the Summer Games. South Africa are eyeing the continental title that they are yet to win despite reaching the finals five times.

Banyana Banyana begin their 2022 AWCON edition with a match against arch-rivals Nigeria on Monday. The two teams met in the 2018 Nations Cup finals and the Super Falcons emerged winners winning their third consecutive and 11th overall Africa Women Cup of Nations title.

The two will rekindle their rivalry at the group stages in a group that also has Botswana and Burundi.

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis has vowed that they want to win the title for the first time in history.

And the neighbours’ morale has been boosted by the South African Football Association R10 million bonus that has been dangled by their association.

The re-elected SAFA President Danny Jordan announced that the players will share R400 000 each if they win the continental title.

Jordan was quoted in the South African media saying that the amount is the highest ever amount paid to any national team, men and women which shows their commitment and confidence in Banyana Banyana.

Banyana Banyana will first have to negotiate their way from the group stage where they will play fellow COSAFA team Botswana next Thursday before winding up the group with a match against Burundi.

Another COSAFA side and tournament’s dark horses Zambia begins their journey on Sunday with a tie against old foes Cameroon.

She-polopolo are in the group that also has Tunisia and Togo.

The neighbours skipper Barbara Banda carries the nation’s hopes going into this tournament after the striker left a mark at last year’s Tokyo Games.

Banda scored two hat-tricks in two games at the Summer Games where Zambia despite bowing out at the group stage left a mark.

The three nations will represent the COSAFA region in North Africa and South Africa and Botswana will be forced to eliminate each other in the early round of the tournament that returns after a three-year hiatus due to Covid. Meanwhile, the women’s football constituency has been plunged into mourning after Northern Region Division One club Mufakose Queens lost their sponsor Albert Kaseke.

Kaseke, who was chief executive of Fineye Panel Beaters, passed on in Harare on Saturday. His late mother Monica Kaseke was one of the founding members of Mufakose Queens. Kaseke resuscitated Mufakose Queens with a sponsorship package in November 2021 in honour of his late mother.

Kaseke spent part of his childhood in Murehwa but was raised in the high-density suburb of Mufakose.

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