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Page last updated at 12:49 GMT, Thursday, 3 September 2009 13:49 UK

Cosafa boost for Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and the government are hoping that hosting the Cosafa Cup will help to revive the image of the country.

Zifa Chief Executive Henrietta Rushwaya
Zifa's Chief Executive hopes the cup can revive Zimbabwe's image

Preparations are underway for the annual Southern African championship, which had been under threat.

This year's tournament is set to run from 17 October - 1 November.

The government has pledged sponsorship of US$1m, and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority is putting in an additional $100,000 to fund the 14-team competition.

"We're trying to market Zimbabwe as a safe tourist destination - we need to rebrand the country," Zifa Chief Executive Henrietta Rushwaya told BBC Sport.

"We're using the tournament to attract as many tourists as possible."

Tourism to Zimbabwe fell dramatically after the farm invasions of 2000 and the subsequent deterioration of relations with many Western countries.

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.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the most glamorous Cosafa tournament ever to be staged

Henrietta Rushwaya

"The tournament should serve as a shop window for future regional, continental and international events," said Rushwaya.

"We had a delegation from Brazil in the country last week to have a look at our facilities and they were impressed with what they saw."

The Cosafa Cup began in 1997 with sponsorship from South African Breweries, but the status of the competition has fallen, with various formats having been tried.

Many of the participating countries field second-string or developmental sides, as the dates fall outside the Fifa international calendar.

But Zimbabwe is hoping to put on a good show.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed that this will be the most glamorous Cosafa tournament ever to be staged," said Rushwaya.

Last year's edition of the competition was hosted by South Africa's Mpumulanga province.

When they 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 held in Zimbabwe.

The country hosted the 1995 All-Africa Games, with eight teams taking part in the football competition.

Two stadiums will be used for the tournament, Rufaro in Harare and Barbourfields in Bulawayo.

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see also
Zimbabwe offer to host Cosafa Cup
19 Jul 09 |  African
Cosafa Cup likely to be shelved
11 Jul 09 |  African

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