Cosafa has nullified an earlier draw and changed the format for the 2021 Under-17 Championship scheduled for Lesotho following the late confirmation by Zimbabwe.
Initially, the competition had two pools with hosts in Group A alongside Zambia, e-Swatini, formerly Swaziland, Mauritius and Madagascar while Group B had defending champions South Africa, Angola, Malawi, Botswana and Seychelles.
But following the changes, the format of the competition will now be three pools, two of them with four teams and one with three.
Cosafa general secretary Sue Destombes said in a statement that the fresh draw will take place today and will be live on Cosafa Television.
She said Cosafa felt it was necessary to allow Zimbabwe to take part in the spirit of promoting youth football.
Said Destombes: “Although this request was received past the cut-off deadline for inclusion, Cosafa’s mandate in the Region 5 Youth Games is to promote youth football and provide potentially life-changing opportunities to boys and girls from all our member countries.”
She said as such, they could not deny Zimbabwe youths an opportunity to play at the tournament.
She said: “We feel it would be wrong to exclude Zimbabwe and deny their players the opportunity to compete on this grand stage.
“Zimbabwe will be added to the girls’ competition as the fifth team in the single pool and that will remain a round-robin format.”
Last year, four teams were disqualified from the competition after a failure to adhere to eligibility guidelines, namely Comoros, Zimbabwe, Botswana and e-Swatini.
The competition proceeded with four teams, namely Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zambia.
Malawi finished at the bottom of the table, but coach DeKlerk Msakakuona said this time around he hopes to do better.
The coach downplayed the change in format, saying the team should be prepared to face any team.
He said: “For sure, we have to be ready to play against any team when we participate in such tournaments.”
The tournament will be played as part of the Region 5 Youth Games in Maseru, Lesotho from December 1-10.