Warriors thrown life with Malawi draw in CHAN qualifiers

Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

ZIMBABWE’S Warriors were yesterday paired with Malawi in the first round of the qualifying draw for the 2022 African Nations Championship (CHAN) despite the ban from international football by FIFA.

The Warriors were named as one of the 12 participating countries from the COSAFA region, where only three teams will qualify for the finals to be held in Algeria in January next year.

All qualifying ties are set to be played over two legs, with the winners on aggregate progressing. First round first leg matches will be played between 22 and 24 July with the return legs a week later.

However, CAF have explained that Zimbabwe, who have already been kicked out of the 2023 AFCON qualifiers set to begin next week, will be disqualified if the FIFA ban is not lifted two weeks from kick off of the CHAN games.

Zimbabwe and Kenya face the same fate after they were handed FIFA sanctions. But the Kenyans, who have already made their position clear about cleansing their game before returning to international football, were not included in yesterday’s draws.

“In case the suspension of Zimbabwe FA is not lifted two weeks before their first match, they will be considered losers and eliminated from the competition,” said CAF in a statement.

Only locally-based players are eligible to participate in the CHAN tournament. Zimbabwe finished last at the previous edition held in Cameroon after losing all group games. They are not likely to take part in the upcoming qualifiers after the country’s sports regulator, the Sports and Recreation Commission, indicated that they will take the same route as Kenya.

That would mean that Malawi will benefit from a walkover and progress to face the winner between Zambia and Mozambique in the second round.

According to the draws conducted yesterday, the winner between Mauritius and Angola will face either Comoros or South Africa.

Botswana or Eswatini will take on Seychelles or Madagascar while Lesotho and Namibia will not take part in the South Zone.

The North African region is already settled with Libya and Morocco joining Algeria in the competition due to Tunisia’s suspension for a late withdrawal in qualifying for the 2020 edition and Egypt opting to not participate.

In the WAFU-B Zone, Ghana will take part in the only first round matchup against Benin with the winner advancing to the final round of qualifying for a date against Nigeria. Ivory Coast will play Burkina Faso and Togo takes on Niger in the other WAFU-B final round matchups.

In WAFU-A Zone, the first round matchups will be Senegal-Liberia (winner to face Guinea), Sierra Leone-Cape Verde (winner faces Mali) and The Gambia versus Guinea-Bissau for a date against Mauritania.

The Central Zone will see three teams qualify from three matchups which include Central African Republic versus Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea-Cameroon and Chad-DR Congo.

São Tomé and Príncipe are suspended from their withdrawal for the 2020 CHAN qualifying and Gabon elected to not take part.

The Central East Zone (CECAFA) will have three teams at the final tournament with two rounds determining the qualifiers.

Ethiopia and South Sudan square off for a final round matchup against Rwanda while the winner between Somalia and Tanzania face off against Uganda.

Burundi and Djibouti duel for the last matchup against Sudan. Eritrea and Kenya decided not to enter the draw.

Sao Tomé and Príncipe are suspended from their withdrawal for the 2020 CHAN qualifying and Gabon elected to not take part.

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