THE national women soccer team, Twiga Stars, open their 2011 COSOFA Women’s Championship campaign this afternoon against Botswana at the Gwanzura Stadium Harare, Zimbabwe.
The southern regional show-piece tournament will feature eight sides, split into two groups of four teams each, with the Twiga Stars receiving a special invitation from COSAFA to take part in the competition.
Speaking prior to their departure on Thursday, Twiga Stars head coach, Charles Boniface Mkwasa, said they were looking to use the event as a stepping stone towards their All African Games campaign.
“This is the best opportunity for us to prepare for the All African Games,” said Mkwasa. Twiga Stars have been drawn in Group B, with defending champions South Africa, Zambia and Botswana. Group A consists of hosts Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi.
“We have trained well and the players are in good condition, so we’re looking forward to a successful campaign,” said Mkwasa.
The tournament will be played at two venues; the Rufaro Stadium and the Gwanzura Stadium, with South Africa opening the tournament against Zambia at Rufaro on July 2 (kick-off 13:00).
Zimbabwe will play their opening fixture against Lesotho (15:15) at the same venue straight afterwards, while across town Mozambique will play Malawi (13:00) at Gwanzura. After that, the Tanzanian queens, Twiga Stars open their tournament against Botswana (15:15) at the same venue.
After the opening fixture against Botswana, Twiga Stars will face Zambia on July 3 at Gwanzura before winding up their group campaign against holder Banyana Banyana on July 5. Each country will play one another in a round-robin format, with the top two sides in each pool advancing to the semi-finals.
The winners in the knockout stages will compete in the final for the trophy, while the losers will play for bronze in a third-place play-off. The 2011 event will be the fourth time the COSAFA Women’s Championship has been staged and the first for Tanzania to feature in. The first was held in Zimbabwe in 2002 and was won by South Africa, who beat their hosts 2-1 in the final.
Four years later, the South Africans triumphed again at the finals in Zambia, when they beat Namibia 3-1 in the decider. South Africa made it three in a row when they beat Zimbabwe in the finals of the 2008 tournament in Malange, Angola. Mkwasa’s charges have qualified for the 2011 All Africa Games due in Mozambique on September, this year