Zimbabwe’s women national team, the Mighty Warriors, are preparing for the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship, but bemoan discriminatory treatment they continue to receive compared to their male counterparts, the Warriors.
This year’s regional football extravaganza will be held in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with 12 countries scheduled to compete for honours from September 12-22.
It is undisputed that the Mighty Warriors have been flying the country’s’ flag high, and yet the Zimbabwe Football Association, the mother body is allegedly yet to level the playing field in terms of pay, treatment, benefits among other things.
In general, the women sporting industry has been mired in “discrimination, patriarchy and institutionalised sexism” and the Mighty Warriors are not an exception as they prepare for the COSAFA tourney.
While the Warriors’ team wins equal pay, get full pay, the female stars are often broke and ignored.
The Zimbabwe football team have also made some strides over the years, qualifying for the Olympic Games among other high profile tournaments or games like the, AWCON and COSAFA have often been shambolic, disjointed and farcical.
As of now, the Warriors are accommodated at Cresta Lodge, Msasa, a four star hotel as they prepare for the AFCON qualifier against Congo whilst Mighty Warriors are at the dilapidated and uncomfortable ZIFA Village.
There have been calls on the soccer governing body to “immediately end gender pay inequity and to treat all the athletes with the respect and dignity deserved”.
Such treatment of the Mighty Warriors by ZIFA would be forgiveable if it was happening for the first time, but it seems like the daily bread.
However, but ZIFA spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela, said they were fully behind female football and are fully aware of their obligation.
“ZIFA takes full value of our women and we respect their efforts in representing the nation. We take pride of the emancipation of women and we know that we are fully obliged to fulfill their needs. We do not discriminate women and this is evidenced by the stride we have made in maintaining a functional women’s league,” he said.
On the other hand, ZIFA claim’s there is lack of corporate support for women’s football, unlike their counterparts.
The disturbing trend has been ongoing for years leading to serious questioning around pay equality and respect in sport.
Sports administrator and radio presenter Marlene Chiedza Gadzirayi, said the Mighty Warriors’ unfair treatment was disturbing and its high time relevant authorities end such embracing incidences associated with the women senior team.
“When we talk about transformation in sport, it is vital that we include women’s sport in discussion making too. After all, transformation is about equal access to resources and opportunities for all and the ZIFA is drastically failing women’s players in this country. The Warriors demands are met with no questions yet the girls are at sometimes threatened or ignored.
“Sport needs to reflect society. Women have made huge impacts in other areas, so why not sport as well?”
“It is also common knowledge that their profile and performances on the field of play go a long way to attracting all our major sponsors and TV broadcasters, but no one give them attention. It’s high time we have clear cut policies on women football and female sports in general,” Gadzirai said.
She added; “The organisation must work hard to achieve gender equality by awarding national contracts to all members of the national women’s squad and increasing the number of female players in the national academy.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe Coach Sithethelelwe Sibanda is optimistic of winning despite a tricky first round group in which they will face-off against Swaziland, Uganda and Namibia.
The Mighty Warriors will be hoping to surpass last year’s performance when they lost 1-2 to four-time champions South Africa on home soil last year.
Zimbabwe won their maiden title in 2011 and will be hoping to win the regional competition for the second time.
While the draw looks a gentle draw in the pool stages, Sibanda said she will to be taking any match for granted.
“I am looking forward to a tough tournament and I believe every team is there to win.
“We don’t have to look at our history. This is a new game, it’s not about our previous achievement. We are trying our best to prepare and we are positive ahead of the tournament,” she said.
“Some might want to think that we are in an easy group but that is it different. It’s a tricky one.
“The Uganda girls are fresh from CECAFA and they will surely give us competition. One can rule out Namibia at her own risk because they have great stars. We have to prepare thoroughly,” Sibanda added.
The inclusion of Cameroon, ranked number three on the African continent, is a major highlight for the tourneys.
Only the top team in each group will advance to the semifinals, along with the best-placed runner-up.
Cameroon and Uganda are coming as guest nations.
Cameroon have been to major events, including the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada and they have an impressive record on the continent.
Zimbabwe squad in camp
Goalkeepers: Shebba Rauli (Auckland), Chido Dzingirai (Correctional), Lindiwe Magwede (Cyclone Stars), Cynthia Shonga (Faith Drive).
Defenders: Sheila Makoto (Blue Swallows), Lynett Mutokuto (Black Rhinos), Sarudzai Chikowore (Harare City), Edline Mutumbami (Blue Swallows), Danai Bhobho (Harare City), Nobuhle Majika (M.S. U), Nobukhosi Ncube (Correctional), Sithembile Nyoni (Weerams), Diana Nyika (M.S.U).
Midfielders: Emmaculate Msipa (Black Rhinos), Marjory Nyaumwe (Correctional), Mavis Chirandu (Black Rhinos), Greater Bande (Cyclone Stars), Rumbidzai Zhoya (Auckland), Felistas Muzongondi (Black Rhinos), Peacemore Kenende (Inline Academy), Evermore Mutandwa (Weerams), Kudzanai Chiparausha (Blue Swallows), Concilia Madotsa (Faith Drive).
Strikers: Maudy Mafuruse (Faith Drive), Rutendo Makore (Black Rhinos), Erina Jeke (Correctional), Berita Kabwe (Correctional), Shamiso Mutasa (Harare City) Elizabeth Bvunzawabaya (Cyclone Stars), Susan Nyama (Herentals).