The delayed 2023 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) kicked off this weekend in Ivory Coast with Zimbabweans watching their neighbours participating in the continental football showpiece where their team is missing in action.
Seven Southern African Development Community (SADC) teams are playing at AFCON.
These include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Angola, Namibia, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa.
Zimbabweans have had to watch from the terraces in frustration and pain three neighbouring countries, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa at the tournament, reminding them of how football has been destroyed by corrupt and incompetent officials in charge over extended periods of time.
The Warriors missed the current tournament as it was banned by football world governing body Fifa due to government’s ill-advised and needless interference in football matters through the Sports & Recreation Commission (SRC) chaired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s son-in-law Gerald Mlotshwa.
The commission is charged with regulating and promoting all sports and recreation in activities in Zimbabwe.
Fifa banned Zimbabwe from international matches in February 2022.
The governing body acted after the Harare government tried to to take control of the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) on the grounds that it had failed to account for some funds and did not investigate alleged cases of sexual abuse toward female players by football officials.
Both Zifa and SRC should be held accountable for allowing their ill-advised moves and egos to get the national team suspended for 18 months, more than a season.
They both failed to act in the national football interest, putting their self-serving agendas and bloated egos ahead of the game and fans.
Apart from undermining the nation, they also inevitably sabotaged players’ careers and progress during the 18-month ban.
Now after the ban, they still don’t have a plan beyond the normalisation committee.
At the Afcon hosts, Ivory Coast, got off to a good start, beating Guinea-Bissau 2-0 at Alassane Ouattara Stadium (named after President Alassane Dramane Ouattara) in the opening match in the capital Abidjan.
There were upsets on the opening weekend as Cape Verde beat Ghana 2-1 and Egypt had to settle for a two-all draw with Mozambique, while Nigeria was held to a 1-all draw by lightweight Equatorial Guinea.
Holders Senegal begin the defence of their title against The Gambia in Group C later today at 4pm.
Cameroon take on Guinea at 7pm; and Algeria versus Angola (10pm).
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