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By Bodwa Mbingo -SWAZI OBSERVER-10-Sep-2009

SOCCER – THE Zimbabwean Government has joined forces with the country’s Tourism Authority to raise US$1 100 000 (over E8 million) for the Council of Southern African Football Association (COSAFA) Senior Challenge tournament.

The national team, Sihlangu SeMnikati together with 13 other countries is gearing up for this tournament to be hosted by the Zimbabwean Football Association (ZIFA) from October 17 – November 1.

Information gathered from BBC Sport has revealed that the country’s Tourism Authority has contributed US$100 000 (about E750 000) while the Zimbabwean government has pledged US$1 million (about E7.5 million) to have the tournament taking place. According to earlier information, the country needed about E7 million to host the tournament. ZIFA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Henrietta Rushwaya confirmed the latest developments and declared that preparations are underway for the tournament to be held next month. “We’re trying to market Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination and we need to rebrand the country. We’re using the tournament to attract as many tourists as possible and ZIFA also hopes that staging the COSAFA Cup will lead to the hosting of other competitions, and that it will help to attract teams to hold training camps in the country ahead of the 2010 World Cup in neighbouring South Africa,” Rushwaya was quoted as having said by BBC Sport.

She added that they were keeping their fingers crossed that this will be the most glamorous COSAFA tournament ever to be staged and said it should serve as a shop window for future regional, continental and international events. The national team, Sihlangu’s preparations for this annual event, have already begun with friendly matches against Lesotho, Malawi and Namibia.

The team will also engage Lesotho in a return match in Maseru very soon. They have only gone as far as the semi-finals in the tournament before. The tournament will be played at the Rufaro Stadium in Harare and Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo. Last year’s edition of the competition was hosted by South Africa’s Mpumulanga province. When they pulled out, it looked like the tournament would not take place this year, until Zimbabwe stepped in.

The COSAFA Cup will be the biggest football event ever to be held in Zimbabwe. The country hosted the 1995 All-Africa Games, with eight teams taking part in the football competition

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