Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE Under-20 football team coach Tonderai Ndiraya has called on ZIFA to maintain and nurture the junior team which participated at the COSAFA championships in South Africa.
The Young Warriors bowed out at the group stages after collecting four points in Group A.
Zimbabwe drew 2-2 with South Africa, lost 2-0 to Mozambique before beating Lesotho 4-1 on Sunday.
Ndiraya believes the team has a lot of potential, moreso considering that half of the players are still eligible for next year’s tournament.
He was particularly charmed that two of his players picked Man-of-the Match awards from the three games they played.
Ubuntu Cape Town defender Munashe Garan’anga was voted Man-of-the-Match in the game against Mozambique while Lexington Mujokoro was the best player in the Lesotho match. The FMSA Umguza midfielder also played a blinder in the opening match against South Africa.
“There is need for more time in camp for us to work on a number of fitness deficiencies on the boys. We took 50 percent of the boys who will be eligible for next year’s tournament and we will be communicating with their respective coaches and advise them on the areas their players need to improve on,” said Ndiraya.
“Despite some mixed performances, the boys did very well and had an opportunity to be seen by many scouts who were here (in South Africa). The exposure in itself will push the boys to work extra hard to get to the level of some of their colleagues from other countries who have made it to the top,” Ndiraya said.
The coach also commended the players for their good behaviour.
“The boys had good discipline and would want to single out Sebastian Summerfield. Apart from having a good debut in our last match against Lesotho, he led his teammates in showing high levels of good manners,” he said.
Summerfield, who plays for Gateshead in the United Kingdom, was the only player of colour in the squad after former Legends Football Academy prodigy, Cullum-English Brown, who is now based in Germany.
The Young Warriors coach and his troops were scheduled to return home last night.
And there is no rest for the DeMbare coach Ndiraya who immediately joins the Warriors technical team, led by Zdravko Logarusic, for the preparations of the CHAN tournament.
Ndiraya also thanked the Government for granting them permission to travel to South Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This generation of players risked missing the tournament due to the ravaging Covid-19. I want to thank the Government and the federation (ZIFA) for allowing us to go and participate in the tournament,” said Ndiraya.
This year Zimbabwean teams, which competed at the regional tournament, failed to progress beyond the group stages.
ZIFA technical director, Wilson Mutekede, said the COSAFA tournaments provided a perfect platform for all their teams to return to action.
“When we look back at the COSAFA tournament, where we participated with our senior women’s team, the Mighty Warriors, the Under-17 women’s team and the Under-20 team, we see an opportunity which was provided for our junior national teams which we again used as a platform that was provided for us to be able to return to football.
“The only challenge was returning to competition when we had minimum time of preparation due to the pandemic and the game of football being accessed,” he said.
“But we had an opportunity to participate and expose our players to competition which is very important in the pathway of development. So, when we look back, yes, we might refuse to face reality and say everything was not good. I think there are positives we can pluck out of it even though the teams did not do well,” said Mutekede.
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The Under-17 boys team, who were also scheduled to take part in an earlier tournament, were humiliated as they were booted out of the competition after one of the players failed the MRI scan.
“Yes, one of our players failed an eligibility test which was a technicality but the good thing is that, as an association, we had also taken measures to make sure a preliminary MRI scan test was taken. Our boys had started well with a 1- 1 draw against Angola, the same happened with the Under-20 boys team.
“But the positives are, we participated and we gave the young players an opportunity to showcase their talent. Going forward, obviously the organisers are going to be able to confirm the tournament well in advance in terms of selection and preparation which is key for competition because competition is very important. It’s only we compete in order to make sure that we can measure ourselves in terms of how prepared we are. We are glad that we participated and did well to send teams,” said Mutekede.