NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 29- The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) on Wednesday afternoon announced it has withdrawn participation at this year’s CECAFA Senior Challenge Cup set to begin on December 3 in Machakos.
In a statement on its official website, ZIFA pointed out to ‘security risk posed by the volatile situation in the host country’ as its main reason for withdrawal.
“ZIFA reiterates its commitment to fulfill all future tournaments and matches, provided the environment does not in any way risk the safety of participating teams. The withdrawal from such a prestigious tournament is unfortunate for us, the team, the nation and the tournament organisers, but the association had to make the complex decision in the best interest of all involved,” the Zimbabwean association said in a statement.
In a rejoinder, CECAFA Secretary General Nicholas Musonye has termed Zimbabwe’s reasons as baseless, saying Kenya is not experiencing any political instability and was quick to add that the Warriors will not be missed in the tournament.
“We will not miss them at all and I don’t understand what security risk they are talking about. If they don’t have money to come for the tournament let them just say instead of creating a lame reason. They should be the last people to talk about insecurity; they have bigger problems than us,” an agitated Musonye told Capital Sport.
“The tournament will go on and be a success even in their absence,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Local Organizing Committee is working to have a final stand on the venues and are expected to issue a comprehensive statement on Thursday.
Musonye has however hinted that the opening ceremony might be held in Kakamega at the newly refurbished Bukhungu stadium where Kenya will play its opening match against Rwanda before travelling back to Machakos where Group A will be based.
“It might be but we are still working on the logistics of that. We should have a comprehensive stand by close of business Thursday,” Musonye said.
Zimbabwe, alongside Libya were the two invited teams for the tournament and their withdrawal now leaves only nine teams in the competition with CECAFA member Sudan having also earlier pulled out.
The new development is rather a peculiar one from Zimbabwe, especially noting that save for a few pockets of running battles between police and opposition supporters, the country has been hugely peaceful.
But probably, the Zimbabwe Warriors might have been worried by the Local organizing Committee’s decision to move matches from Kisumu to Machakos, roughly over the same reasons despite the county government having assured of adequate security.
Group A, where hosts Kenya headlines will now have four teams from where the top two automatically qualify for the semi-finals.
The organizers are set to release fixtures before Saturday, once majority of the teams jet in.