ZIMBABWEAN sport is set for a busy schedule this year with local athletes expected to feature in a number of regional and international tournaments. NewsDay Sport takes a closer look at the major sporting events to look out for in the New Year.
- Chan Championships (South Africa)
The Warriors will yet again be reduced to mere spectators when the 2014 Fifa World Cup gets underway in Brazil in June after a disastrous qualifying campaign in 2013.
There will, however, be some consolation for the locally-based players who are expected to take part at the African Nations Championships (Chan) in South Africa.
Zimbabwe will be making their third successive appearance at the Chan Finals which will take place between January 11 and February 1 in South Africa. The Ian Gorowa-coached side will battle it out with Uganda, Burkina Faso and Morocco in Group B and open their campaign against the Moroccans in Cape Town on January 12.
- 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification (Morocco)
After failing dismally at the last hurdle in 2012, the national football team will seek to qualify for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations for only the third time in their history.
The preliminary round of the qualifiers for the Afcon tournament to be held in Morocco will get underway in August.
The qualifying draw was supposed to take place in Morocco on March 10 2013 during Caf General Assembly. However, the Caf Executive Committee decided that the qualifying draw will be held on January 31 2014 in South Africa.
The Chan finals are expected to help Warriors coach Ian Gorowa in preparing for the crucial qualifiers.
- Caf inter-club Competitions
Zimbabwean champions Dynamos and Mbada Diamonds Cup losing finalists How Mine will represent the country in the Caf Champions League and the Caf Confederation Cup respectively.
Dynamos were drawn to play Mochudi Centre Chiefs of Botswana in the preliminary round of the 2014 African Champions League.
The 20-time Zimbabwean champions will host Mochudi Centre Chiefs at home for the first leg on the weekend of February 7, 8, 9 before travelling to Gaborone for the second leg on the weekend of February 14, 15 and 16.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s Caf Confederation Cup representative How Mine will play host to Chuoni FC of Zanzibar in the preliminary round first leg of the continental tournament on February 8. How Mine will then travel to the island nation for the second leg a week later.
- ICC World Twenty20 (Bangladesh)
The Zimbabwe Cricket team will make their fourth appearance at the ICC World Twenty20 competition to be held in Bangladesh from March 16 to April 6.
According to the new format announced by ICC, Zimbabwe and hosts Bangladesh will need to progress from the first round stage against lower ranked teams to qualify for the Super 10 stage.
The Andy Waller-coached side will battle it out in Group B which includes Ireland, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Netherlands. They will kick start their campaign against the Irish on March 17.
Should they win their matches in the first round stage they will join Sri Lanka, England, South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies, India, Pakistan and Australia in the ICC World Twenty20 tournament “proper” which gets underway on March 21.
Zimbabwe’s preparations have however not been ideal because of a stand-off between local cricketers and the governing body Zimbabwe Cricket over unpaid salaries.
The standoff has already affected domestic Pro50 Championship and Logan matches, which were expected to help local players to prepare for the ICC World Twenty20 competition.
- ICC Under-19 World Cup
After disappointing campaigns in recent years, the Zimbabwe Under-19 cricket team will be hoping for a much improved display at the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup to be held in the UAE from February 14 to March 1.
The Walter Chawaguta-coached side was recently drawn in the same group with neighbours South Africa, Canada and the West Indies.
Zimbabwe’s youth team will open their campaign against the Canadians at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on February 14.
The 16 teams have been divided into four groups, with the top two teams progressing to the Super League quarter-finals, while the two bottom teams from each group qualify for the Plate Championship quarter-finals.
- 2015 Rugby World Cup Qualifiers
The Zimbabwe rugby team, the Sables face a defining season in which they will attempt to return to the Rugby World Cup for the first time since 1991.
The Brendan Dawson-coached side will need to win the 2014 CAR Africa Cup Division 1A tournament to be held in Antananarivo, Madagascar from June 26 -July 6.
The winner of the tournament, which also features Kenya, Namibia and hosts Madagascar, will book Africa’s sole ticket to the 2015 World Cup to be held in England while runner-up will enter a playoff against European representative.
Namibia, who have qualified for the last four successive editions of the World Cup, will pose the Sables biggest hurdle.
- Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games
2014 is expected to be a busy year for most national sports associations as they battle to meet the qualifying standards for the Youth Olympic Games to be held in Nanjing, China, in August.
The second edition of the Youth Olympic Games will run from August 16 to 28.
Promising Zimbabwean rowers Daniella du Toit and Kyle Hinde recently became the first local athletes to qualify for the Games during the African Youth Olympic Games Qualification Regatta held in Tunisia.
Other sporting disciplines such as swimming, triathlon, athletics and basketball will have a chance to qualify for the youth global sporting showpiece at the Africa Youth games set for May 17-28 in Botswana
The Africa Youth Games will be used as a Youth Olympic Games qualifying competition for some disciplines as assigned by the respective International and Continental Confederations.
- Supreme Council of Sport in Africa (SCSA) Region Five Under-20 Youth Games (Bulawayo)
Bulawayo will host the Sadc Zone VI Youth Games in December after Zimbabwe was granted the right to host the AU Sport Development Games, formerly the Supreme Council for Africa Zone VI Games for the Under-20s.
The Youth Games will be the first biggest sporting event to be held in the country under the new stand-alone sports ministry and a budget of a whopping US$46 million has been put in place to ensure the successful hosting of the biannual tournament
A local organising committee is already in place chaired by Charles Dzimba, which is operating from Khumalo Hockey Stadium in the City of Kings.
Some of the sporting disciplines expected to feature at the Region Five Games include, athletics for the visually Impaired, basketball, boxing, football, netball, tennis and swimming.
The youth games are a biennial sport platform aimed at improving the development of sport in the SADC region in preparation for higher continental and global sport competitions.
- Golf Majors
Zimbabwe will this year be represented in all four major championships in golf, the Masters, the Open Championship, the US Open and the PGA Championship by US-based professional golfer Brendon de Jongé
De Jongé qualified for all majors following his impressive run during the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, which saw him qualifying for the prestigious Tour Championship for the first time in his professional golf career.
The burly professional golfer’s first major appearance this year will come at the prestigious US Masters to be played from April 10-13 at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.
- World Amateur Team Golf Championship (Japan)
Zimbabwe’s leading amateur golfers are expected to take on other top golfers from around the world at the World Amateur Team Golf Championship in Japan.
Also known as the Eisenhower Trophy, the biennial amateur team golf championships will be held from September 3 to 14 in the Japanese city of Karuizawa.
US-based amateur golfer Scott Vincent who is currently Africa’s highest ranked amateur on the official World Golf Rankings has emerged a frontrunner for the tournament after storming into the top 20 of the official World Golf Rankings.
Other Zimbabwean amateur golfers expected to make the team include, Clive Nguru, Sean Crocker, Benjamin Follet-Smith, Ray Badenhorst and Thembelani Vundla.
In 2012 Zimbabwe finished in 17th-place finish at the World Amateur Team Championship in Antalya, Turkey – the nation’s best result in the international event.