ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa yesterday congratulated the Under-17 soccer team after they were crowned champions at the African Union Sports Council Region Five Under-20 Youth Games in Luanda, Angola, on Sunday.
The Under-17 boys were part of Team Zimbabwe that represented the country in Angola and finished second behind South Africa at the Games with 96 medals. They got 19 gold, 31 silver and 46 bronze.
The Young Warriors ensured that Zimbabwe had something to smile about on the final day of the Games when they beat Angola 1-0 in a tightly contested final that had to be decided in extra-time.
And all Zimbabwe needed was a goal by Anelka Chivandire to win the game.
In a statement posted on Zifa’s official website, Chiyangwa saluted the Young Warriors, challenging them to remain focused till they graduate to the senior team.
“Congratulations to the young boys for their valiant exploits which won them the best prize in the football tournament.
“The boys are a clear testimony of the kind of foundation we are trying to set up in Zimbabwean football at the moment.
“Let me also congratulate the whole technical department and the Sport and Recreation Commission for making sure that the team was well catered for during its preparations for the just-ended Youth Games.
“I want to encourage the ‘golden boys’ to keep working hard and to remain focused till they develop into world class talents who can play in European leagues, and most importantly who can graduate into the senior national team,” said Chiyangwa
The current Young Warriors surpassed the previous Under-17 team that finished as runners-up to Zambia in 2014 when Zimbabwe hosted the Games in Bulawayo.
It was a different story for the girls soccer side as they lost all their matches against Angola, Namibia and South Africa.
However, they proceeded to the semi-finals after the round-robin phase since there were only four countries competing and lost 4-0 to South Africa. They went on to lose by the same margin against Angola in the third and fourth play-off.
Chiyangwa, who is also the Council of Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) president, urged the girls to learn from their experience in Angola for future assignments.
“To the girls, learn from the defeat this time around and continue to work hard because there is no other route to success besides hard work,” Chiyangwa said.
Ten countries took part in the Games — Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe fielded athletes in athletics, athletics for the visually impaired, basketball (girls), boxing, football (boys and girls), gymnastics, judo, netball, swimming and tennis.
And most of the medals came from athletics with 30 medals followed by athletics for the visually impaired with 27 and swimming got 22.
The basketball team got a silver medal while judo scooped five medals including two golds. Netball finished third to walk away with a bronze medal while tennis had five medals – one gold, one silver and three bronze.
Boxing team weighed in with three medals — one silver and two bronze — and gymnastics had one bronze.
South Africa as usual maintained their dominance with 125 medals — 65 gold, 35 silver and 25 bronze. They have won the Games since their inception in 2004.
Team Zimbabwe returned home late yesterday afternoon from Angola.