Our senior national football team, the Warriors, begin their campaign at the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations tonight against hosts Egypt.
Being the tournament opener, global focus would be on the match at the 80 000-seater Cairo International Stadium as our beloved Warriors face the Pharaohs at 10pm.
This promises to be a massive game between one of the underdogs in Group A versus the perennial top dogs of the African game. Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are the other nations in the group who, like the Warriors, fit in the category of underdogs.
It has indeed been a very long wait, appearing like that June 21, 2019, would never come but here we are for the thrills and spills; the nerves, tears and the celebrations that come with a tournament of this nature.
In Sunday Chidzambwa our boys are in safe hands, the safest we can muster locally. He is the best soccer coach in the history of the national game who took us to our maiden Afcon finals in 2004. He has won multiple titles as a player in the domestic league and as a club coach. He took Dynamos to the Caf Champions League final in 1998, becoming the first and, so far the only local coach to get to that stage.
Therefore, Chidzambwa has the pedigree to enable us to compete, and dream even when facing the continent’s best. He, like we do, understands that it will not be easy against Egypt but he, like we do, doesn’t fear anyone.
“We very well know that Egypt are a very good team and we are the underdogs, but since we are one of the 24 teams who have qualified, there is nothing that can stop us from making a surprise. These things happen in football, but I think the best team that day is going to win the match,” said Chidzambwa earlier this week.
He is in charge of an excellent pool of players, a combination of youth and experience; steel and flair. Captain Knowledge Musona is a huge player who has campaigned in Europe for many seasons. Nyasha Mushekwi, the giant of our side, is a tough guy who possesses the physical attributes to withstand the competition and has the ability to score. Khama Billiat is the slippery man of the side. Yes, he lacks stamina, but he compensates for that with quick feet and dribbling ability. Tendai Darikwa, the right-sided defender, is confidence personified. Marvelous Nakamba is top quality that is being sought after by big clubs in Turkey and England. Marshall Munetsi, who has just signed for a French top flight side Stade de Reims is the Atlas that sustains the team.
We indeed have an excellent band of professionals who can, and will, take us far at this Afcon edition, beyond the group phase.
Many pundits are touting Egypt and their king pin, Mohamed Salah, a recent winner of the Uefa Champions League with Liverpool of England. In their view, he is unstoppable.
Messi, the Argentine and Barcelona magician is, in our view, the greatest of his generation, but he has been stopped a few times. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese and Juventus man is one of the best, but he too has been stopped a few times. We don’t care who has stopped them, but we aren’t afraid of Salah. We are proud Warriors; we believe in ourselves and we must stop him.
The Warriors are representing a nation called Zimbabwe and they have an obligation to do just that. They have a national flag to defend and must do just that not only against the Pharaohs tonight but also against the DRC and Uganda and whoever they will face after the Group A matches.
We defeated DRC away to Kinshasa in qualifying, so we are confident we will not fail to compete against them in this tournament. Uganda’s Serbian coach Milutin Sredejovic was in the news a few weeks ago, speaking as if he didn’t know who Zimbabwe was. He thought the Warriors have no chance in the group yet, as a matter of fact, it is his that are the weakest. Against Uganda we should be able to fight, ending up with maximum points too and Sredejovic will eat his words.
“We know it’s going to be a big game, strong opponents, opening game and they almost never lose at home, we know it’s a tough game,’’ said Musona previewing tonight’s game.
“But, we are also ready, as underdogs, to show the country, and the world, that we are not here to just make up the numbers, but to fight and show what we are capable of.”
He spoke like a captain who is as confident as he must be and ready to fight for victory for his country, whatever it takes. Furthermore, he and his mates know how important it is for them to shine at the finals for they stand to secure better club contracts if they do so.
In the final analysis, looking at the Warriors’ individual and collective strength relative to their adversaries’ in Group A they have a great chance to shine and proceed to the next stage.