Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIFA have drawn up a grand masterplan that could see the Warriors taking on three of Africa’s football heavyweights and holding a month-long training camp in South Africa, Nigeria and Dubai ahead of the 2019 AFCON finals.
Ghana’s Black Stars, four-time AFCON winners, Nigeria’s Super Eagles, with three titles and Morocco’s Atlas Lions, with one title, have all been lined up to provide sparring partnerships for the Warriors.
According to the masterplan, the Warriors will send a full-strength team, which coach Sunday Chidzambwa would have picked for AFCON finals duty, to this year’s COSAFA Cup in South Africa.
The ZIFA leadership, which held an emergency meeting in Harare yesterday to discuss issues related to a visit by some FIFA officials, agreed the regional tournament will be used as part of the Nations Cup preparations.
According to their grand plan, the Warriors should leave Zimbabwe by May 25 for South Africa, stay there for the entire duration of the COSAFA Cup in Durban, where they will also be holding their training camp.
The team will then move to Nigeria, for an international friendly against the Super Eagles on June 7, although the date of the match could be shifted depending on the final contract to be drawn, between the two parties.
After the Super Eagles match, the Zimbabwe delegation will remain in Nigeria for, at least, four days holding their training camp before leaving for the United Arab Emirates where they will also hold a similar exercise.
A Dubai date with the Black Stars has been penciled in for June 16 but, again, the eventual date will largely depend on what will come out of the final contract.
The initial arrangement was for the Warriors to get the ball rolling with a home date against Bafana Bafana on May 25 at the National Sports Stadium.
However, with the two nations now set to feature at the COSAFA Cup, where they could meet in one of the matches, and both countries having decided to use the regional tournament as part of their AFCON preparations, the Harare match has now been thrown off the rails.
But, according to ZIFA officials, the Atlas Lions of Morocco, have been looking at the possibility of taking on the Warriors on May 25 in Harare.
The Atlas Lions could also provide the kind of North African football touch which the Warriors are likely to experience in their opening match against the Pharaohs.
ZIFA want that day to be used by the players and their coaching staff to interact with their fans for one last time, ahead of their AFCON mission, and to thank them for their support.
Felton Kamambo, the ZIFA president, told The Herald yesterday he was not in a position to reveal the countries the Warriors will play in their AFCON preparations, at the moment, because of some contractual issues.
‘’There has been tremendous progress on that side, we are in a very good place right now and we are all excited about the programme that is shaping up for our team to enable it to have the best of preparations so that they can get to Egypt in good shape to represent our country well,’’ said Kamambo.
‘’However, you can understand that there are some contractual issues that are tied to such issues and you just don’t go around announcing things until both partners have cleared the way for such an announcement to be made and there are some few issues that need to be tied up.
‘’But, we are confident everything will work out as we have planned and we will have a team in good shape when they play at the AFCON finals.’’
Yesterday, it also emerged that CAF this week started to pay US$260 000 each, to all the 24 2019 AFCON finalists, to help them bankroll their preparations for the finals in Egypt.
CAF want to ensure that associations with smaller budgets, like ZIFA, can get some funds to help them meet the expenses of preparing for the tournament.
The continental football governing body will then deduct the US$260 000 from each finalist’s appearance fee of US$475 000, while, should the Warriors progress beyond the group stages, more money will be poured into the ZIFA accounts depending on the stage they are eliminated.
In the event the Warriors win the tournament, they will receive US$4.24 million.
ZIFA could also be in line to receive a further US$4 million chunk from FIFA to help fund some of the projects in this country following a meeting between officials from the two organisations in Harare on Wednesday.
The country’s mother body didn’t request the initial US$2 million facility, which was open to them, but they can now look forward to a combined US$4 million facility for their projects.
‘’It was a very good meeting with the FIFA officials and the issues tackled there were about our projects which we want to do with the help of FIFA funding,’’ said Kamambo.
‘’The projects include the four stadiums, one per each region, we have proposed, two offices, one in the Eastern and one in the Central Region, our new head office in Harare, a resort centre just outside the capital, near Lake Chivero, which will be owned by the association and used even for camping by our national teams and a hotel at the ZIFA Village.
‘’We also dealt with the agreed objectives where we have to ensure we start a youth league, a women’s league, funding grassroots projects, reviving our Futsal and beach football structures and also starting some income-generating projects.
‘’With this initiative to eventually move our football calendar to go along with the FIFA calendar, we are looking at our youth and women’s leagues being started using the August to May calendar.’’
The full Umbro kit and equipment, said the ZIFA boss, was now expected to be delivered by May 15.