Ray Bande in MUTARE
LEFT in the cold after being frozen out of international action through the FIFA ban on Zimbabwe and the lengthy Covid-19-inspired absence of schools sport, budding football players will have a chance to sharpen their skills when the unbranded Two Regions Under-20 tournament gets underway.
The ZIFA Northern Region covers the greater Harare Metropolitan, Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West provinces while the Eastern Region comprises of Manicaland, Masvingo and Mashonaland East provinces.
Being run under the auspices of the ZIFA Northern Region and Eastern Region football administrative bodies, players under the age of 20 attached to Premiership clubs, Division One clubs, junior football academies and schools will compete in a tournament that is expected to reach its climax when two regional teams play in the final encounter. ZIFA Eastern Region chairman, Davison Muchena, said competitive matches started on Saturday in his region. He said official sponsorship agreements are being finalised with a number of prospective corporate partners.
“We are engaging different corporate partners and we are happy that there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. We decided to start this competition for the sake of our junior football structures which we have been watching while decaying.
“This is just the start and we hope we will have much bigger achievements from this initiative. In the Eastern Region, we have already started competitive matches and selection of players to feature in the provincial teams and ultimately the regional team are going on as well,” said the Triangle-based football administrator.
ZIFA Northern Region secretary, Sweeney Mushonga, confirmed that they have also made provisions to have matches be played from grassroots level at the Under-20 age-group.
“We are in it. We have made provisions to have matches be played from grassroots level at the Under-20 age group. The whole idea is to help the youngsters who have been inactive for a long time and hopefully we close the gap in terms of future talent,.
Under-20 football teams in the ZIFA Eastern Region jurisdiction are already competing for the top gong in the inaugural edition of the age-group contest which started at various venues across the region on Saturday.
In Manicaland, some matches took place on Saturday at Elis Gledhill High School in Mutare while in the Lowveld, teams clashed at Chishamiso Stadium in Chiredzi. In Mashonaland East, competing teams used Chiremba Ground in Ruwa. With players to be selected from competing teams, a regional Under-20 team will then battle for supremacy against the Northern Region in a move aimed at trying to ultimately bring back the glory days of vibrant junior football in this country.
ZIFA Eastern Region boss, Davison Muchena, added: “Saturday was a big day where our Under-20 provincial team selection was done. The teams were grouped into four clusters, namely Masvingo Urban, Lowveld, Manicaland and Mashonaland East province.”
The Lowveld group comprised Traingle’s Ramangwana, Hippo Valley, Chiredzi Select, Renco Mine and Green Fuel while Manicaland included PSL and Division One select, Majesa, Mutare Select A and Mutare Select B.
Mashonaland East group comprised of Division One Select, Power 11, Rusununguko and Goromonzi while Masvingo had a Division One Select, Zaka Academy, Dewure and Pamushana. The games kicked-off in a round-robin format while a panel of coaches selected the best of the best players to represent provincial teams that will eventually make up the team to represent the region.