JUST IN: Heavyweights start arriving in cairo for warriors showdown

Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
ONE by one, the leaders of Zimbabwean football have started flying into the Egyptian capital ahead of the Warriors’ 2019 AFCON showdown against the Pharaohs at the Cairo International Stadium.

The match, which will open this tournament, will follow an opening ceremony to mark the official start of the biggest Nations Cup in history with 24 teams taking part.

The Warriors will also take on Uganda and the DRC in their other Group A matches.

A full-house 80 000, mostly Egyptian fans, are expected to converge at the Cairo International Stadium – the scene of that unforgettable ’94 World Cup showdown between the Pharaohs and the Warriors.

That match ended 2-1 in favour of the hosts but the result was nullified after FIFA ruled that the conditions inside the stadium, where Zimbabwe coach Reinhard Fabisch and goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, suffered head cuts after being hit by flying missiles thrown from the stands, were not fair for the visitors.

A replay, played in the French city of Lyon, ended goalless and the Warriors topped the group to qualify for the final phase of the World cup qualifiers.

Back then, the Cairo International Stadium was a 120 000-seater stadium but renovations, to bring it in line with modern facilities, have seen its carrying capacity being reduced.

However, it remains an imposing facility and it has been under virtual lockdown all week with security personnel taking no chances to ensure the safety of the fans, the players and the officials.

Today, the acting Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kazembe Kazembe, who has also been leading the fundraising committee which has been mobilising resources for the Warriors, arrived here.

Kazembe, a former Dynamos secretary-general, was expected to have lunch with the Warriors at their team hotel yesterday.

The Warriors are staying at the same hotel as the DRC.

ZIFA board member, Farai Jere, also arrived here earlier in the morning while the association’s president, Felton Kamambo, who had been scheduled to arrive on the same flight as Kazembe, did not arrive here as had been expected.

Marshall Gore, the man who has been leading the crusade to get as many footballers, with Zimbabwean roots who were born in Europe to commit to playing for the national team, also arrived here earlier today.

Gore was part of the UK-based fans who also watched the Warriors maiden AFCON appearance in Tunisia in 2014.