Sports round up 2015

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ANOTHER sporting year has come to an end. 2015 has been a year of mixed fortunes in all sporting disciplines and like in previous years, football made the most headlines.
The main headlines of the year have been the qualification of the Mighty Warriors for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the ouster of Cuthbert Dube from ZIFA presidency, the firing of Andrew Langa as Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Charles Manyuchi retaining his World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight title and Kirsty Coventry winning three gold medals at the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo, among other achievements.
The year 2015 started with a lot of great expectations for Zimbabwean sportspersons.
Teams of different disciplines were hoping for better performances and in football, FC Platinum, that was participating in the Confederation Cup, represented Zimbabwe in Africa. FC Platinum had earned the ticket to represent Zimbabwe after winning the Chibuku Super Cup in 2014. The 2014 league champions Dynamos opted out of the champions league owing to huge financial obligations associated with the African Safari.
However, the club failed in the second round of the African clubs competitions after being knocked out by Tanzania giants Young African. The Zvishavane side had cruised past Green Mambas of Swaziland in the preliminaries before outwitting Sofapaka of Kenya in the first round.
The national team had a few assignments on the road to Morocco 2017 for the Africa Cup of Nations. Unfortunately Zimbabwe were suspended in the World Cup qualifiers owing to salary arrears owed to Tom Saintfiet totalling US$120 000. In the AFCON qualifiers, Zimbabwe wrote a different script on the whole continent. The national team travelled to Malawi by road and arrived in Malawi hours before kick-off in June. The national team had missed their plane as players wanted to be paid appearance fees before departure. They won that match 2-1.
In the African Nations Championships (CHAN), Zimbabwe qualified again for next month finals slated for Rwanda.
The Mighty Warriors proved the name ‘mighty’ is not just for show. They qualified for the Olympics with yet another script similar to that of their male counterparts. The Mighty Warriors failed to travel to Ivory Coast for the second stage qualifiers. The match was forfeited and they lost 0-3. Ivory Coast were supposed to travel to Harare but they also failed. After that they withdrew and Zimbabwe proceeded to the last round of qualifiers where they met Cameroon. They lost 1-2 to Cameroon before they beat the visitors 1-0 at Rufaro Stadium in October to qualify on away goals. They became the first soccer team to qualify for a global tournament.
On the domestic front, a lot happened. The premiership saw the dethroning of Dynamos and the crowning of Chicken Inn as the 2015 league champions. For the last time in the league, four teams will be relegated to First Division and next year a new criteria for relegation will be adopted. Buffaloes together with three debutants Flame Lily, WhaWha and Dongo Sawmills were relegated after just a year in the league. Debutants Tsholotsho Pirates survived relegation by a whisker. Four teams won promotion into the top flight. These are Bulawayo City, Mutare City Rovers, Border Strikers and Ngezi Platinum.
A new Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane was appointed, replacing Andrew Langa. The new minister, a former journalist, has made headlines in his short stint in office. He is literally present at almost all sporting gatherings.
Fortunes in the gentleman’s game continued to tumble. The Chevrons lost to Afghanistan, an associate side, in October. Zimbabwe became the first test playing side to lose to a non-test playing nation in the One Day Internationals. The national team has seen some changes with seasoned batsmen falling out of favour of the selectors. Hamilton Masakadza was demoted to Zimbabwe A together with Vusimuzi Sibanda.
Some fringe players like Tendai Chisoro, among others, have been elevated to the senior team in the quest to improve the performance of the national team.
Alistair Campbell resigned as ZC director of international cricket and commercial affairs. Campbell was accused of racism by Prosper Utseya. The former captain alleged that Campbell was behind his non-selection at the World Cup earlier this year.
From the world of cricket we venture onto the tennis courts where the Davis Cup team maintained their Euro-Africa Zone Group II place by emphatically beating Moldova in the play-offs in July. Zimbabwe had lost to Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-4. Currently the team are ranked 65 in the world. Before the winter matches, Zimbabwe were ranked 75 in the world and after the victory over Moldova, Zimbabwe climbed 10 places up the ladder.
South Africa are the best-ranked country in Africa. Charles Manyuchi made headlines in the boxing ring. The Chivhu-based boxer managed to defend his WBC welterweight title after beating Italian Gianluca Frezza. Manyuchi’s success in the ring has helped efforts to revive the sport in the country.
Kirsty Coventry is not to be left out in the Zimbabwean sport success story. Coventry won three gold medals in the swimming pool at the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo. The Olympic medallist has won several swimming accolades and is part of the team nurturing grassroots talent.
The year almost ended in style for the Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby team, the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs narrowly missed out on securing a berth at the Rio Olympics.
They lost an epic final to Kenya 17-19 with seconds before they qualified for Rio.
Better fortunes are expected in the coming year for the sportspersons.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

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