ZIFA president Felton Kamambo, who has saluted the Mighty Warriors for their resilience, believes Zimbabwe has the potential to qualify for at least three World Cups.
He vowed to use his influence to help the Mighty Warriors — as he has been doing with the men’s team — realise their dream of being part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup jamboree.
The ninth edition of the women’s global tournament — the quadrennial world championship for the female game — is set to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand between July 10 and August 20, and will see the 2023 tournament expanded from 24 to 32 teams.
Global women football powerhouse, the United States, are the defending champions going into the competition, having won the previous two tournaments in 2015 and 2019.
But for the Mighty Warriors to realise that dream, they must first secure a ticket to the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, which was, however, cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It will now have to be re-scheduled by the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
Kamambo, however, says he has seen enough in terms of the qualities and resilience of the women’s game to believe the Mighty Warriors, who have previously been to the Olympics, could reach the World Cup finals.
The ZIFA boss told The Sunday Mail Sport that as he reflected on the just-ended Women’s International Month in March, the commitment shown by the women and other local women football stakeholders had touched him.
He is convinced the country could take aim at three World Cup slots for the Warriors, Mighty Warriors and the FIFA men’s Under-20 World Cup.
The expansion of the Women’s World Cup to 32 teams, which will mean more slots for Africa, has added to Kamambo’s optimism, with the ZIFA president banking on the crop of young talent that ZIFA sent into battle at the last COSAFA tournament.
He is also pinning hopes on the Warriors to make it to the global soccer showcase in Qatar next year.
But he acknowledged it would not be easy, especially in a group that includes teams such as Ghana, COSAFA rivals South Africa and rising side Ethiopia, where only the group winners proceed to the final qualification play-offs.
“It is great that we have qualified for the men’s AFCON for the third successive time. I think we have generally been doing well to qualify for the AFCON since we made it for the first time in 2004,” said Kamambo.
“But we must not just celebrate qualification for the Nations Cup.
“As a nation, we need to set some new targets for ourselves and aim for the knockout stage at the AFCON. In fact, the vision is to have at least three of our national teams qualifying for the World Cup.
“It is a legacy I would want to bestow on our football and we are looking at investing more in the Mighty Warriors in particular and the women’s game in general. They have been to the Olympics before and there is nothing stopping them from getting to the World Cup if we give them the kind of support they deserve, and soon we will be announcing the steps that we have taken to boost them in their quest for success.”
He said once junior football is back after the long Covid-19 break, ZIFA intends to roll out the junior leagues, which will provide a wide selection base for coaches.
The biggest undoing for the game, he added, was the pull-him-down syndrome.
Kamambo said: “When we qualified after beating Botswana, it was a victory for the nation and not for Kamambo or any ZIFA board member, and that is the spirit we should embrace.”
The next edition of the biennial FIFA Under-20 tourney will be held in Indonesia in 2023 after this year’s edition was postponed due to the pandemic.
It is believed that with better planning and huge investments in youth football, which will be kick-started by the provincial leagues, Zimbabwe can mount a more meaningful challenge for the 2025 Under-20 World Cup.
Kamambo is not the only one dreaming of a World Cup breakthrough.
In welcoming news of the expansion of the Women’s World Cup teams, Wilson Mutekede, the association’s technical director, told our sister paper The Herald that he was optimistic the Mighty Warriors could even become the torch bearers in securing local football’s maiden dance with the global showpiece.
“This is a very positive development, depending on the slots that would be allocated to Africa, we should fancy our chances.
“We are happy, as a nation, women football in Zimbabwe has been quite promising, as shown by our previous qualification for the Olympics in Rio.
“This gives us a good feeling that if we work hard and prepare well, we will, obviously, try and push to qualify for the World Cup.
“The talk has been that if Zimbabwe were to qualify, the biggest chance would be through women. But, we also fancy our Warriors to qualify one day,’’ Mutekede said.
He also applauded the launch of the CAF Women Champions League.
“It is quite a welcome development. You are aware that at FIFA and CAF, in terms of women’s football, there has been so much work in developing the women’s game in the world.
“It calls for us to really work hard and improve women’s football.”
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