THERE are some valuable lessons to learn from the gallant performance of the Warriors in a losing cause against Africa’s top ranked side, Senegal, in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) Group B opening match on Monday.
Fears were that the Lions of Teranga, buoyed by Liverpool talisman Sadio Mane, would tear the Warriors to pieces.
This was not to be.
The last gasp penalty victory by Senegal tells of how ‘underdog’ Warriors had stood toe-to-toe for 90 minutes with their formidable foe.
The brave performance by the Warriors was remarkable, especially considering that Zimbabwe had become canon fodder even for small teams like Ethiopia.
But why this dramatic transformation?
We have said before that the performance of our national team is reflective of the calibre our ZIFA Board.
This is the ZIFA executive responsible for the management of our national teams, the Warriors included.
Our ZIFA Board has since been suspended by the Zimbabwe Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) on charges that amount to gross mismanagement, hence it has no influence in the management of the Warriors in Cameroon.
At the 2019 AFCON in Egypt, the Warriors almost returned home without fulfilling their fixtures over unfulfilled promises by the ZIFA Board.
This included reneging on advance payments the mother body had promised players.
This time, the SRC secured US$1 million for the players well in advance.
There has been harmony without any threats of boycotts or refusal to train like what happened in Cairo in 2019.
Because the organisers were seen to be interested in the welfare of the national team, in return the Warriors were motivated.
Irrespective of the scoreline at the end of this game at this biennial tournament, the Warriors were a joy to watch.
So it looks like it was a blessing in disguise that the Kamambo-led ZIFA Board was suspended just before this tournament.
This game also went a long way in answering the question about the suitability of local coaches.
The line-up on the day did not have the dazzling stars from overseas clubs, for reasons beyond the coach’s control.
Most of the players were internationals plying their trade here in Africa.
These are players local coach Norman Mapeza had personal knowledge of right from the beginning as an indigenous coach.
It was easy for the local coach to fit them into a team formation which suited his charges.
The fans were thrilled.
People following proceedings on TV screens must have realised how much sport, football included, unites people with a common cause.
Zimbabweans of different political persuasions and religious beliefs were united in wishing their team a success.
The last minute penalty decision broke their hearts, if the silence that followed is anything to go by.
This lays bare the sadistic thinking of the suspended Kamambo-led ZIFA Board, which had openly prayed for FIFA to ban the Warriors from participating.
On the eve of the tournament, they even pleaded with CAF to ban the national team so that fans would turn against the SRC.
This is the typical Nelson Chamisa’s strategy of ‘kudira jecha’ — that desire to see your own people suffer so that Government is blamed for it.
Wanting to see people suffer sanctions is just as evil as wanting to see people denied the right to watch their Warriors on the international stage.
The Warriors might have lost to Senegal, but on Monday’s showing, we are confident that tonight they will beat Malawi.
Not only that!
We are also optimistic that they will also get the better of Guinea on Tuesday, January 18 and proceed to the knockout stage of this tournament for the first time.