Sources said organisers feared an early elimination of the hosts would be a “massive blow” on local interest and attendances.
The original fixture released by Cosafa at the beginning of the tournament clearly show that the winner of the quarter-final 4 match, between Zimbabwe and Botswana, was meant to play the winner between the quarter-final 2 tie featuring pre-tournament favourites Zambia and Namibia.
The Zimbabwe team, consisting of the best collection of the country’s Premier Soccer League, edged out Botswana 1-0 on Monday.
Earlier, the Zambians had also beaten Namibia 1-0, setting the stage for what should have been a Zimbabwe-Zambia showdown in Bulawayo yesterday.
The Zambians ended up playing Mozambique.
After the Zimbabweans’ win over Botswana, it was announced that the hosts would instead play a South Africa Development XI outfit, which on paper appeared weaker opponents than Zambia.
But the South African outfit outshone the locals in talent and technical awareness despite slowing down in the second half. They eventually lost 3-2 in a penalty shootout after the two sides were tied 1-1 in regulation time.
Cosafa chief executive Sue Destombes was not available for comment last night. She was said to have flown back to South Africa.Another spokesperson for the tournament declined to comment, saying the matter was “political”.
Zifa chief executive Henrieta Rushwaya however said the changes were caused by Tanzania’s pullout from the regional tournament.
“The (Cosafa) media department did not get back on time to update the changes,” Rushwaya said.
The original fixture however shows that Tanzania’s withdrawal was not an issue as it excludes them.
Meanwhile organisers yesterday announced the prize money for the winners.
The winner will walk away with a paltry R300 000, with the losing finalists pocketing R150 000.Organisers could not be drawn into revealing the source of the money and why former sponsors South African Breweries had pulled out after earlier saying they would bankroll the competition this year on a one-off basis.
Meanwhile Zimbabwe will face Zambia in Sunday’s final after Chipolopolo beat Mozambique 2-0 in yesterday’s second semi final at Barbourfields.
Enock Sakala’s first half strike and a late goal from substitute Felix Sunzu sent the four-time champions into the final in Harare.