WARRIORS BACK IN AFCON QUALIFIERS . . . Three months to put house in order The Africa Cup of Nations currently held by Cote d’Ivoire will be at stake when 48 nations go into the hat on July 4 ahead of the 2025 AFCON qualifiers

Eddie Chikamhi

Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE’S football authorities will have under three months to try and put the house in order as the Warriors will return to action in September when the Morocco 2025 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers begin. 

The Warriors will be among the 48 teams that will go into the hat when the draw for the next AFCON qualifiers is held on July 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

According to the organisers, the teams, including four winners from the preliminary round (Chad, Eswatini, Liberia, and South Sudan) will be drawn into 12 Groups of four teams each to battle it out for places at the finals.

Headlining the confirmed nations for the draw are reigning African champions Cote d’Ivoire joined by Algeria, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana, DR Congo, Egypt, and Cameroon. 

The other participating teams included Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eswatini and Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bis-sau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

“Fresh from the thrills and successes of the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations Cote d’Ivoire 2023 where the host nation defied all odds to claim their third title, a line-up of intriguing matches is expected for the journey to the 35th edition of the show-piece continental sporting event. 

“The qualifiers are scheduled to kick-off in September 2024 to determine the first 24 nations that will compete for Africa’s biggest event, the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco in 2025,” said a statement from CAF. 

Zimbabwe missed the previous AFCON campaign which culminated in an intriguing final in Cote d’Ivoire because of a FIFA suspension. 

The return to the continental competition is likely to be greeted with excitement, because they had qualified for the previous three consecutive finals in 2017, 2019, and 2021. 

However, of major concern is the chaos surrounding the Warriors team, which has not had a substantive coach for the past three years and no CAF-approved stadium to play home games. 

The team was in South Africa in the past week where they were exposed for lack of organisation after losing both games against Lesotho and South Africa in the Group C qualifiers for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. 

The homeless Warriors had to host Lesotho at Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg and lost the match 2-0. Previously they hosted Nigeria at Huye Stadium in Rwanda. 

The World Cup qualifiers took a break this week and will only resume in March next year. But before that, Zimbabwe and other African nations will have to participate in the 2025 AFCON qualifiers. This was announced by CAF this week. 

Despite the talent abound in the Zimbabwe team, the Warriors have been struggling to stay afloat because of off-field administrative challenges. 

The ineptitude displayed by the FIFA-appointed ZIFA Normalisation has made life more unbearable for the Zimbabwe national team that is still trying to deal with the aftershocks of the 2022 FIFA ban. 

The Normalisation Committee led by Lincoln Mutasa has failed to appoint a substantive coach during their one-year tenure, which ends on June 30. Coaches have been engaged on an ad hoc basis and Jairos Tapera, a fifth coach to be roped in during the Normalisation Committee’s tenure, led the side in the two World Cup qualifiers in South Africa. 

The Normalisation Committee has also developed an unhealthy habit of wading into technical issues by picking national team players with little or no input from the coaches. 

It is most likely the Warriors will be under a new coach for the 2025 AFCON qualifiers. 

Supporters have called for the appointment of a substantive coach as well as expediting renovations at the National Sports Stadium. 

Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association secretary-general Joseph Mutawu lamented the fact that local Warriors fans were being denied the privilege to support their favourite team at home. 

“It becomes very expensive for us supporters to travel to other countries to support the Warriors. It is a disenfranchisement to the Zimbabwean football supporters and fans who cannot raise travel fares and accommodation. 

“It is also a disadvantage to the Warriors as they cannot benefit from the home advantage. It also does not paint a good picture of our nation,” said Mutawu.

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