The Sunday News
Langton Nyakwenda, Harare Bureau
THE wound has not totally healed 28 years later and Moses Chunga, captain of the Warriors team whose African Cup of Nations dream was shattered by Congo, has broken his silence on this calamity and is urging Knowledge Musona and company to right the wrong of 1991.
“This time Congo should feel the same way we felt back in 1991,” a thoughtful Chunga told our Harare Bureau as he reminisced on the pain Congo inflicted on Zimbabwean football lovers on July 14, 1991.
Back then, Zimbabwe needed a win against Congo at the National Sports to qualify for the 1992 Afcon finals in Senegal and led 2-1 until the 92nd minute when they conceded a last gasp goal, thanks to an infamous John Sibanda howler.
Now, the Warriors just need a draw against the Diables Rogues (Red Devils), at the same venue on March 24, to qualify for the 2019 Afcon finals that begin in Egypt on June 21.
“In fact it’s wrong for us to say we need a draw, we do not need just a point but an outright and emphatic win. This is not just an ordinary qualifier, there is history attached to this fixture. This is the same national team that caused us unimaginable pain 28 years ago and this time they should pay for it,” declared the 53-year-old Chunga.
Whereas the Warriors team Chunga captained back in 1991 comprised mostly local-based players, Musona’s troops are mainly drawn from foreign leagues — a transformation “Bambo” believes could work in Zimbabwe’s favour this time around.
Angirayi Chapo, the late Paul Gundani, Memory Mucherahowa, Alexander Maseko, a youthful Peter Ndlovu, the late Adam Ndlovu and Sibanda were some of the local-based players in the 1991 starting XI.
But now, Musona leads a cast of Europe-based players that include Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (Cefn Druids), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge) and Tino Kadewere (Le Havre).
“That alone is a huge advantage, during our time we had more local players in the national team but now we have more players playing in highly professional European leagues.
“They are better conditioned, psychologically, physically and technically to deal with these kind of games,” noted Chunga.
Warriors coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa has promised to deliver the ticket to Egypt and has sent a “show me what you can offer” message to all Zimbabwean players hoping to make the Match Day squad on March 24.
The 66-year-old gaffer has already started pondering over which troops he will summon for the Congo tie and revealed that he will name the squad end of February or early March.
However, the ever critical and hard to please Chunga has warned against tinkering with the squad at the last minute.
“This is not the time for any tinkering, back in 1991 Peter Fanwell was the first choice and I remember very well discussing the line-up with then coach Armando Ferreira when he accompanied me to put flowers on my mother’s grave at a Harare cemetery in the morning of the match day.
“Ferreira wanted to hear my thoughts as the captain and I was of the opinion that as usual “Chops” (Fanwell) should start but it turned out to be (John) Sibanda. We should however, not use Sibanda as a scapegoat, pese pafa munhu hapashaye muroyi. We all failed. Where were the defenders when that winger Makita (Francois) made that run before crossing?
“Our centre backs also failed to deal with that cross,” revealed Chunga.
“So, this is no time for tinkering with the team that has been doing duty all along. This notion of making noise about a player who has played a few good games for his club is not good. Club football is different from national team football, some players are just good at club level but fizzle out when they put on national colours. The likes of Andy Cole used to bang them in for Manchester United but when it came to England he didn’t do as much,” opines Chunga.
“The current crop of Warriors has some very good players, in fact I think they can even go on to make noise at the Afcon finals should they qualify. So I am urging Knowledge (Musona) and his troops to not only do it for their careers but for us the Class of 1991, we want them to avenge that calamity.
“If you ask my teammates they will tell you how bad the mood was when we returned to the changing room after that game. It was like one half of the body had died. We consoled John (Sibanda), some players were just quiet and indeed the atmosphere resembled that of a funeral parlour,” reminisced Chunga.