THE Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) Normalisation Committee is taking steps towards bridging the gap between professional and school football after launching the CAF African Schools Championship in Harare this Wednesday.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) African Schools Championship is an intercontinental school soccer tournament for boys and girls under the age of 15.
Its objective is to promote and develop the educational, cultural and humanitarian aspects of organised football in Africa by implementing youth programmes.
The programme was launched last year by CAF, but Zimbabwe was ineligible to take part as they were suspended from international football.
After the lifting of the suspension, the Normalisation Committee has moved in swiftly to promote junior development, an area of concern in local football.
“The competition will bridge the gap between junior football and professional leagues and this is an area we have been found wanting as a country because we did not have junior teams but this is the starting point,” said FIFA Forward Manager, Kudzai Chitima.
The championship is divided into three phases; national, regional and continental.
The national phase competitions will be held on the 27th and 28th of this month at Allan Wilson High School in Harare, with eight teams participating in each category.
The participating teams are drawn from various associations that govern schools sport in Zimbabwe, including the National Association of Primary School Heads (NAPH), National Association of Secondary School Heads (NASH), Independent Colleges Association and Association of Trust Schools (ATS).
The winner of the national tournament will go on to represent the country at the COSAFA Schools Championship, set for later this year at a venue to be decided.
ZIFA, however, believes there is need for more school tournaments for the country to be competitive at international level.
“We need to move away from the current set up where we just okay football second term, we need to move along with the world and make sure we have more tournaments outside second term because scientifically a professional player need to have played ten thousand a hours of football at developmental stage but if we stick with the current set up we will produce half backed players,” added Chitima.
Apart from action on the pitch, ancillary programmes will also held during the course of the tournament.
There will be a Young Referees Course conducted by CAF, Young Reporters Course for school children to enter the media space as well as a CAF D coaching course that will be facilitated by CAF and instructors from France.