Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
THE local junior football landscape is set to change following the hosting of Fifa Grassroots Coaching Instructors Course last week that was attended by over 40 participants in Masvingo.
Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda said the hosting of the course opens up doors for vibrant junior football structures and achievement of the football governing body’s objective of training 600 grassroots coaches a year.
The five-day course which ended on Friday was presided over by Fifa instructor Ulric Mathiot. Each province had four participants, the provincial chairperson, two male coaches and one female coach.
Sibanda, who chairs the Zifa Technical Development Committee, said participants at the course were now expected to take charge of grassroots courses in their respective provinces.
“We had to incorporate provincial chairs because that is where junior football should be played but little is taking place in the provinces. We want the provincial chairpersons to take the lead and set up vibrant junior leagues. The course proved critical because some did not have an understanding of what grassroots football is and after Mathiot unpacked it, I am sure we are going to see more junior football,” he said.
Sibanda said the envisaged training of 600 grassroots coaches every year will result in the change of the country’s football pyramid which is upside down, with more activity at the top and little at the bottom.
He said for the adequate unearthing of talent more football has to be played at the lower level rather than at the top. Sibanda added that once junior football is running at full throttle it will be easy for clubs to fulfil the Fifa Club Licensing sporting criterion that calls for teams to have two junior teams.
“With a wider base there is going to be more talent being fished. If you look at the time Highlanders was churning out the likes of Peter Ndlovu it had a vibrant junior structure and we believe more talented can come out through that system,” he said.
“At the moment most of the junior leagues are manned by coaches who are not fully qualified because grassroots soccer has its own specific needs that are different from upper echelons of the game. Age cheating can also be minimised as players get to be registered at a young age hence changing birth records would be very difficult.”
Sibanda said provinces are expected to form Under-16 provincial teams that would form the basis of the national team of that age category.
He added next year they would be initiating an Under-17 national league, which would be funded by Fifa.
Fifa is set to second an instructor to assist the country in the setting up of the Under-17 league. Renowned juniors coach, Ali “Baba” Dube was one of the participants in the course that kicked off last Monday.