PUMPED UP FOR EGYPT

The Sunday Mail

Makomborero Mutimukulu
Sports Editor

SUNDAY CHIDZAMBWA has been sounding out his men ahead of next weekend’s final Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo Brazzaville at the National Sports Stadium.

And his first question to Edmore “ZiKeeper” Sibanda sought to establish whether the giant goalkeeper was ready to go into battle just a few weeks after the death of his son Cedric.

The answer from Sibanda was as emphatic as it was reassuring.

“Yes boss, I want to do it for him,” the South African based goalie is said to have told Chidzambwa in a telephone conversation.

Seven year old Cedric succumbed to asthma a fortnight ago and Sibanda believes that the best way to pay tribute to his son is through helping Zimbabwe get to the 2019 Afcon finals in Egypt.

“This is one game he always talked about, he really wanted to watch it but God had his way,” Sibanda, who has since had the cute face of Cedric tattooed on his back, told The Sunday Mail last night.

“Now it’s up to me to play my part in making sure that he smiles wherever he is.

“The team manager (Wellington Mpandare) gave me some God inspired counselling and the other boys have been giving me emotional support as well. Everyone in the team has promised to give their all so that we get the result we need and pay tribute to my boy. We have to make Cedric smile, we have to make Zimbabwe smile too because football means a lot to our people.”

The lion-heart attitude in Sibanda seems to be running through the whole Warriors set up as they enter a defining week.

The boys can see Egypt, the venue of the 2019 Afcon finals, but need to avoid defeat against Congo Brazzaville next Sunday to secure a ticket to the Land of the Pyramids.

The build up to this important final qualifier has been full of intrigue, pain and tears.

Chidzambwa remains coach but deep down the veteran gaffer knows there are some who wanted him to jump before he was pushed.

Thankfully Zifa boss Felton Kamambo saw through the shenanigans, put his foot down and ensured that Mhofu goes into the battle against Congo with Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa still his wingmen.

Mhofu and his technical team are all pumped up and are eager to avoid the biblical Moses episode of seeing Egypt but not reaching it.

The past weeks saw the coaches engaging their troops individually with a view of gauging how mentally prepared they are.

The feedback has been positive.

“We have been having individual discussions with the players and each one of them has been telling us that they are ready to fight all the way,” revealed Chidzambwa.

“We know what is at stake and are ready to put in the hard work. The fans too must put in a shift, we need them to fill the NSS and rally behind the team until the final whistle.

“This is not about Chidzambwa but the nation of Zimbabwe, we need each other and together we can make it.”

Skipper Knowledge Musona has not had the best of seasons, shunted on loan by his Belgian side Anderlecht, but there is no doubting what the Smiling Assassin brings to into the national team dressinf room – inspiration.

Musona is pumped up!

Khama Billiat has not exploded at Kaizer Chiefs but his Amakhosi woes, real or perceived, pale into insignificance when he puts on the Warriors yellow.

Gaucho is pumped up!

Kudakwashe Mahachi was “forced” into apologising to the Orlando Pirates family for missing a last minute chance in Caf Champions League tie against FC Platinum by an official club twit that made him the villain of that 2-all draw.

But Mahachi knows Zimbabwe believes in him and he too is pumped up for the Congo game.