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THE Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa)’s technical director, Wilson Mutekede, has defended the national Under-17 team’s performance at the ongoing Cosafa Under-17 championships in Mauritius, where the Young Warriors lost all their group stage matches to bow out of the tournament in an embarrassing fashion.
BY GARISH PHIRI
Zimbabwe suffered three successive defeats, losing 3-2 to Swaziland in their opening match before they were walloped 5-0 by Malawi in their second group game. They were beaten 2-1 by Angola yesterday to end the tournament winless and bottom of Group C.
Their performances have drawn fire from football stakeholders in the country, with some accusing the technical team led by coach Tafadzwa Mashiri of biased team selection.
However, Mutekede has come to the defence of the squad in an account that actually exposes Zifa.
“The boys tried their best in this tournament. There is room for them to grow and develop. In the opening fixture against Swaziland, they conceded early, but they never gave up although they could not fight back to get a result,” Mutekede said.
The Young Warriors’ preparations were shambolic, with Mashiri only afforded a few days in camp with the team before flying out for the tournament.
“We didn’t prepare well for this tournament. We don’t have a functional league in the country that focuses on U17, specifically.
“We would want to push for initiatives to resume leagues that focus on these age-groups so that we build formidable teams that will represent the country well in future,” Mutekede added.
“We want to spread developmental issues to all 10 provinces of the country and have coaches that will help us pick raw talent. We have been relying on schools and academies to select players, but that is not enough.”
Zimbabwe bowed at the same stage of the competition last year.
Mashiri was forced to leave some players behind after they failed to acquire travel documents in time.
“We want to make sure we don’t encounter such problems next time when we go for the similar competition.
“We urge parents to make sure they acquire passports for their children as it is a personal document. We recommend if a pupil is active in sports, he or she should obtain a passport at the age of 13 and 14.”
Tapiwa Mandinyenya scored for the Young Warriors in yesterday’s match against Angola.