The Sunday News
Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Cairo, Egypt
WHILE there could be justification for supporters to be a bit worried about the Warriors’ losing start at this Total Africa Cup of Nations tournament where they painfully lost to the host by a solitary goal on Friday night, there is absolutely every reason to believe that maybe this could be a historic tournament.
According to the travelling band of supporters here in Cairo, Sunday Chidzambwa’s boys have all the pedigree of going through to the knock-out stages of this tournament, if their performance against the mighty Egypt at a packed Cairo International stadium was anything to go by.
With a bit of boldness on the part of the technical team especially on timing of their substitutions and the identity of those coming out, major shocker could have been witnessed.
“Look, we lost a battle but not the war, the boys stood their ground and matched the Egyptians pound for pound, something which makes us believe that we can and we should do well in our coming matches against Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Lets stay calm and keep the faith,” said Carl Marx Nkomo, vice-chairman of the Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association (ZNSSA).
The sentiments were shared by Sidumisile Ntini who said the Warriors have all what it takes to go through.
“It was just that unfortunate mistake by our captain (Knowledge Musona) that cost us dearly but still to their credit the boys never changed shape, they kept their tactical and technical approach to the game despite the intimidating electric atmosphere from the terraces. My brother, that support is something else but look, even the so called die hard supporter from Egypt saw what our boys are capable of,” said Ntini, a member of the ZNSSA.
Mandla Nkala who came on a Highlanders slot after Zifa asked for club supporters to accompany the Warriors, believed that maybe the coaches gave too much respect to the captain.
“Maybe that respect was rather too much, Musona wasn’t his usual best and I think he ought to have been taken out earlier than the time that he eventually came out. They could have been reasons why he was kept for so long but from a support’s point, he ought to have been replaced much earlier. However, generally our performance was top notch and if we go with the same approach on Wednesday, victory will be ours,” said the Botswana-based Nkala who never misses any Highlanders match, home or away.
Despite having one of the best players in world, Mohammed Salah, the Egyptians found it hard to boss their way with Warriors’ left back Devine Lunga showing little or total disrespect for the Liverpool man.
Infact Salah had to shift his area of operation from the wing to the central position in a bid to avoid Lunga, groomed at Siphambaniso Dube’s Ajax Hotspurs, nurtured at Chicken Inn and probably still being perfected at Golden Arrows in South Africa.
However, Salah who to his credit showed some flashes of excellence, found two immovable objects in the Warriors’ central defence in Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu.
Speaking during a post match conference at Cairo International Stadium on Friday night, Chidzambwa refused to buy the belief that the financial impasse between the players and Zifa might have affected the team’s performance. He said whatever led to the misunderstanding was resolved amicably.
“Not at all, we discussed the issue a day before the game and we agreed with our association that is why we were able to play this game. If there were any problems we wouldn’t have played this game but the problems are sorted out and we look forward to the rest of our forthcoming matches,” Chidzambwa said when asked about the matter.
The players had issued chilling warnings that they were prepared to force the game against Egypt to be cancelled.
Acting Zifa president Phillemon Machana blamed the impasse on lack of sound communication channels as they had deposited the money.
“It was quite unfortunate but I think it was a matter of a communication breakdown. The money was transferred to the players’ bank accounts when we received their signed contracts on Wednesday. We have the stamped receipts from the bank to that effect, copies of which have been sent to the Ministry of Sport. I am sure there were delays at the bank and we have been pushing for the monies to reflect. But it was just a case of someone from the team management getting hold of the (Zifa) office and reporting that the monies were not reflecting in their accounts so that we do the follow-ups. If that was done, we probably would not have had such an experience,” said Machana.
Meanwhile, the Fundraising Committee of the Warriors has said the players have been paid their dues. The committee added that it was only focused on looking after the Warriors and a band of supporters, and was not involved in the travelling of Zifa Councillors to Egypt.
“We would like to make it overly clear that we did not support the travelling of the Zifa Councillors to Egypt, this is outside our Terms of References that we were given. Our core-mandate is to support the players by paying for their appearance fees and winning bonuses and partly supporting a group of cheer leaders and anything outside that, is beyond the scope of our terms of reference.”
The Warriors play Uganda in their next group match on Wednesday before playing DRC.