By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE are set to participate in this year’s edition of the COSAFA Cup to be held in Durban later this month, after the regional body handed the local football governing body ZIFA, a fine and a conditional suspension for their failure to host this year’s tournament.
ZIFA pulled out of hosting the tournament scheduled for May 19 to June 1, in February after failing to get the government guarantee to host the regional tournament. Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry then claimed government had not been given enough time to prepare for the regional showpiece.
COSAFA revealed on Wednesday that Zimbabwe, who were last month summoned to appear before a disciplinary hearing, had received a conditional suspension which could be scrapped if the country agrees to host next year’s tournament.
“ZIFA have received a conditional suspension from COSAFA, but can remedy the situation within two months if they confirm the country as hosts of the 2020 COSAFA Cup, and provide the already signed guarantees from the Zimbabwe government to this effect,” the regional body said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Failure to do so will see the association suspended, though the two-month grace period will allow the national team to compete in the 2019 COSAFA Cup in Durban, South Africa from May 25-June 8,” COSAFA said in a statement.
ZIFA were also fined US$50,000, with a further amount of US$150,000 suspended until they agree to host the 2020 tournament.
The COSAFA Disciplinary Body was chaired by Antonio Caetano de Sousa, accompanied by Adrian Kashala and Daud Suleman.
This year’s tournament has added importance as Zimbabwe are among five teams set to use the COSAFA Cup as part of their preparations for June’s African Cup of Nations finals in Egypt.
Others are Angola, Madagascar, Namibia and South Africa.
COSAFA revealed that the draw for the 2019 COSAFA Cup, which will be held on the Soccer Africa magazine show on SuperSport4 from 21:30hrs on Thursday 2nd May.
However, Madagascar is the only one of the 14 COSAFA countries, who have declined an invitation for 2019, but will be replaced by Africa Cup of Nations-bound Uganda in what is an exciting development for the country.
The Cranes, have now qualified for back-to-back continental championships and will provide an exciting extra dimension to the field in Durban.
The format for the competition will be the same as in previous years, with the eight lowest-ranked sides to be drawn into two pools each containing four sides.
The top two teams in those pools will advance to the quarter-finals, where they will take on the six higher-ranked nations. The six seeded sides are Botswana, Lesotho, Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and defending champions Zimbabwe.
Four quarterfinal winners advance to the Cup semi-finals, while the losing teams will drop into the Plate competition, which provides extra matches for those teams.