Johannesburg - The Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) women’s championships will make a return – after a six-year absence – from September 13 to 24.
The tournament is scheduled for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and will comprise three groups of four teams each playing each other. This will be the first time the tournament has 12 countries participating.
The last women’s championship was contested by eight countries.
Speaking to City Press, the chair of Cosafa’s competitions committee, Timothy Shongwe, said: “We are so excited to finally stage the event. We have been struggling to get sponsors on board, which is why we have been unable to host this tournament.”
Despite sponsors being unwilling to come to the party, the chair was confident that Cosafa would unveil a new women’s sponsor soon.
“For some reason, people don’t value women’s sport. But we will be unveiling a new sponsor very soon, [and] we plan to host this event yearly.”
Cosafa general secretary Sue Destombes said that, despite not having a sponsor yet, they have secured funding from Fifa, which would help sustain the tournament for four years.
“This [tournament] is what we currently have on our calendar, and it has been too long since we last held it. We are able to thank Fifa’s forward programme, which funds all member associations,” said Destombes.
Cosafa will be represented by 11 members, while Kenya will be guests.
Destombes said the increase in participating countries was due to a higher level of interest in several countries and an emphasis on development.
Meanwhile, Cosafa has completed the inspection of the two stadiums that will host the event, and is satisfied with the preparations.
“Our region has an important role to play in the development of African football,” she added.
The South African senior women’s soccer team, Banyana Banyana, are in Group C with Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia. Their opener will be against Lesotho on September 14 at the 8 000-seater Luveve Stadium. They will face Namibia at the Barbourfields Stadium the next day. The venue can host 32 000 spectators.
Banyana, who are three-time winners, will wrap up the round-robin stage by engaging Botswana – also at Barbourfields.
Hosts Zimbabwe are the defending champions.
Madagascar and Malawi will join Zimbabwe and Zambia in Group A.
Kenya head up Group B, where they will face Mauritius, Mozambique and Swaziland.
Winners of the three pools, together with the best-placed runners-up, will advance to the semifinals, which will be played on September 21.
The third-place play-off will take place on September 23, and the final is scheduled for September 24.