War-bound Warriors unite polarised Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – AS he officially opened the recent Confederation of African Football (CAF) annual awards ceremony in Nigeria, the organisation’s president, Issa Hayatou, hailed the sport for uniting people, spreading peace and preaching solidarity.
The theme of his presentation could not be more apt for Zimbabwe, the Southern African nation synonymous with crisis for the better part of the past two decades.
Political tensions have reached sky-high, the economy rock-bottom and the majority of the over 14-million left despondent.
Natural forces have added to the disillusionment. Recent floods have killed dozens of people. Millions are facing starvation after recurrent drought.
However, a wave of optimism is currently sweeping through the country.
The country’s senior men’s football team has emerged the source of buoyancy in this football-mad nation.
With the Warriors, as the team is affectionately known, preparing for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) set for Gabon next weekend, expectations are fever pitch.
Zimbabwe is the only team from Southern Africa, the continent’s perennial punching bag in the sport, to participate at the 31st edition of the tournament from January 14 to February 5.
Simba Rushwaya, the sports editor, highlights the role played by the sport and the national team in uniting a country polarised along political, and to a lesser extent, tribal lines.
“Zimbabweans love their soccer,” says Rushwaya.
“They put aside their differences when it comes to the national team. Not even economic hardships deter the love for their team. A good outing will unite Zimbabweans. The Warriors are a source of unity for the country,” he adds.
Not even the pooling of Zimbabwe in the so-called Group of Death (Group B) alongside Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia is a deterrent.
“The team is strong enough to go all the way,” says African football analyst, Christopher Dube.
He has confidence in the 23-men team coach Callisto Pasuwa has assembled to do duty in the Central African country.
“The spine of the team is as good as any other team in the tournament,” says Dube.
“Costa Nhamoinesu, who can walk into most so called big teams, will be key in defence. Willard Katsande and Khama Billiat are right up there with the best in a very strong midfield. The strikers need no introduction,” he adds.
Zimbabwe is teeming with talent upfront. Orlando Pirates striker Tendai Ndoro is the hottest property in neighbouring South Africa at the moment.
Knowlegde Musona and Nyasha Mushekwi are in impressive form in Belgium and China respectively.
Cuthbert Malajila, Matthew Rusike and Tafadzwa Rusike have also made their mark in the South African topflight.
“All things being equal, Zimbabwe should be in the semifinals at the very least,” says Dube.
Tournament experience, Dube nonetheless says, could be the team’s undoing, with the team making a return after ten years in the sidelines. In-between, a match-fixing scandal tarnished the country’s reputation.
Preparations meanwhile have been characteristically chaotic but Rushwaya points out the team’s has conquered such adversities before.
Zimbabwe’s qualification campaign got off to a worst possible start with players refusing to travel to Malawi after squabbles over payment.
They would eventually travel by bus and overcame an arduous schedule to book a 2-1 journey that was the foundation of an impressive campaign.
“The Warriors have had shoddy preparations but they will still impress in Gabon because they’ve done well against adversity during the qualifiers. It is a team composed of young players who are eager to prove themselves on big stage. They might be surprise packages at the tournament,” says Rushwaya.
Previous campaigns in Tunisia (2004) and Egypt (2006) ended at the first round.
Zororo Sekiwa, Chairman of the Zimbabwe Youth and Sport Organisation, draws parallels between the Zimbabwe national team and reigning English champions Leicester City, whose title win has been described as the greatest sporting upset ever and the best football fairytale in history.
“Leicester last year proved there are no longer dark horses in football,” says Sekiwa, who also welcomes the sponsorship be telecommunications firm, NetOne.
“Musona and Billiat will also give us something special,” he adds.
With the AFCON coming in the wake of his country’s problems, youth are worst affected, Sekiwa highlights what a good performance by the Warriors will mean for Zimbabwe.
“Just one win will get the whole country into party mood.”
– CAJ News

Short URL: http://cajnewsafrica.com/?p=17384

Posted by on Jan 12 2017. Filed under Africa & World, Featured, Football, National, Regional, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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