Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER a five-year absence from the Warriors, on-fire Zimbabwe international forward Nyasha Mushekwi says he feels honoured to be back in the colours of his country and hopes to play a big part in the 2017 Nations Cup campaign.
The big forward, whose goals set the Swedish top-flight league alight during a brief but fruitful stay at Djurgardens, is relishing his return to the Warriors ahead of their big 2017 Nations Cup showdown against Guinea at Rufaro on Sunday.
Mushekwi arrived home yesterday as he tried to sort out his contractual issues with South African Premiership giants, Mamelodi Sundowns, where he has returned following the expiry of his short-term contract in Sweden.
And the former CAPS United hitman, the man who famously scored the two goals at Rufaro which powered the Green Machine to their last win over bitter rivals Dynamos in a league match in April 2009, told The Herald yesterday that he was humbled to be back in national colours and relishing the prospects of playing at a stadium where he crafted memories to last a life-time.
Mushekwi also scored a double against Zambia at Rufaro six years ago, to help the Warriors power their way to victory in the COSAFA Cup final.
“I feel like it is my first time representing my national team,” he said yesterday.
“But it is also exciting coming back to play in front of not only my CAPS United fans, but in front of the Zimbabwean football fans.
“So, it is going to be a big challenge for us because Guinea are not a small team, they are not a small country but we just have to pull our weight and see how it is going to go.”
Mushekwi said he had noted that there was a feel-good factor in the team which has been assembled by coach Callisto Pasuwa.
“I know we have a good team around us, a lot of young players, it’s exciting,” said Mushekwi.
“Everybody is ready to work. It is a big game on Sunday so we just have to push and look for a positive result.
“God has been looking after me and I hope the form that I have been showing that side (in Europe) can also be seen when I play for the national team.”
An injury forced him to miss the first game in the qualifiers when the Warriors snatched an impressive 2-1 win over Malawi in Blantyre in June, but now the bulldozing forward is ready for the big battle against a team that has always made life difficult for the Warriors.
“It is always not easy playing away, especially in these qualifiers, but in the first game we did well, three points away from home, so now it is more like a must-win game that we will play on Sunday,” said Mushekwi.
“It is not going to be easy, but we have to focus on getting three points.
“Everybody is happy and looking excited. It is looking good and we just hope we can have some kind of relationship and that way it can help and we can play well in the field.”
Mushekwi and Matthew Rusike, who is now based in Sweden and scored twice for his team at the weekend, were the last players to join camp as the full squad finally had their first training session together in the afternoon at the National Sports Stadium.
The national team was forced to start their training at 4pm as the players had late lunch at their lodge as a few teething problems continue to stalk ZIFA who needed a Good Samaritan to help them secure tickets for the foreign-based players and match officials to fly for the big game.
Skipper Willard Katsande, who arrived on Wednesday night, said the players were focused on the big tie and, as professionals, they would not be easily frustrated by the few hiccups which continue to derail their preparations.
The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder said all the players, who have never been to the Nations Cup finals, were desperate for a dance at the continental showpiece.
“We have spoken about it with the guys, how important this campaign is, obviously, all of us have never experienced the Africa Cup of Nations finals, so everyone is ready to give it a go, to try and qualify for AFCON.
“And we are going to try and get three points, that is what matters at the moment and if we manage to get three points, it will also give us confidence going forward,” he said.
The hard-tackling midfielder says he is happy with his club performance and hopes to do his part for the country come Sunday.
“The morale is high, we met up in the morning and we were just having fun talking about our clubs and life, the bond is good and the guys are ready to perform,” he said.
Katsande said, the match, which is the first home game after a disappointing 2015 AFCON campaign, should also signal the return of the good times for the team and their long-suffering fans.
The last Warriors home game in either the Nations Cup or World Cup was a disastrous draw against Tanzania in May last year.
“Obviously, we learn from our mistakes. The previous campaign was not good but we will approach this match with a positive mind and try to make our nation proud and we have to be confident and win it in style,” he said.
Meanwhile, Guinea are expected to arrive today for the match.
The West Africans have been camped in South Africa since the start of this week.