‘All-Africa Games finals in our hands’

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The Zimbabwe women’s national football team captain Onai Chingawo believes the ticket to the Zone VI All-Africa Games set for Mozambique in September is now theirs to lose after battling to a 1-1 away draw to Angola at the 10 000-seater Sagrada Esperanca Stadium here on Sunday.

The match was mired by some “suspicious” officiating from referee Mbiyivanga Lulando who awarded the hosts two penalties, one which was converted by midfielder Maria do Destino Destino in the 20th minute while the second one by captain Irene Goncalves Irene in the 92nd was saved by goalkeeper Chingawo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo official, who was clearly struggling to cope with the pace of the game in the searing heat of the Angola — DRC border town also failed to give defender Veronica Landa Vero a red card for a professional foul after she wrestled down Violet Bepete who was in a clear goal scoring position. Vero was shown a yellow card instead.

As if this was not enough, the referee also made some questionable offside decisions against the visitors even when her assistant referees who were in a better position to detect the infractions would not have raised their flags.

The offside count against the Mighty Warriors was 18 in total.

However, despite all the problems they encountered in Angola, which started the day when the team touched down in the capital Luanda, the Zimbabwean team produced a dominant performance and got their well-deserved equaliser through Rudo Neshamba in the 70th minute and could have nicked all the three points nine minutes from time but Nokuthula Ndlovu’s scorcher from outside the box ricocheted off the cross bar.

The team landed at the Luanda Airport on Friday afternoon after a sleepover in South Africa but there were no officials from the Angolan Football Association to welcome them and when one of the officials finally arrived after more than an hour later, he took the team to a nearby hotel but did not offer them any training facilities.

The team was finally granted a police-owned stadium after the technical team had threatened to conduct a training session on the dusty street adjacent to the hotel where they were staying.

But still, the dirty tactics from the hosts were far from over.

The Mighty Warriors were not given lunch on Saturday at the hotel with the Angolan officials promising to provide the team with food at the airport but to their surprise there was no food that was prepared for them and the girls had to engage on a two-and-half hour flight to Dundo on empty stomachs.

The team finally landed at around 1700hrs but were only allowed to train at the match venue at around 1900hrs, apparently because the venue was being used for a local premier league match on that same day.

Chingawo however, said she was not rather surprised by the dirty tactics that were employed by the hosts saying the team was mentally prepared. She said the team’s dream to qualify for the All-Africa Games is becoming clear by each passing game.

“It is now up to us to qualify for the All-Africa Games or to let go this chance,” said Chingawo after the match. “No amount of dirty tricks can demoralise us at the moment, we have set our goals as a team and that is to qualify for the All-Africa Games. After this draw away from home I think our chances are now brighter than ever.”

The winner between these two teams in a contest set for Rufaro Stadium in two weeks time qualifies for the Zone VI All-Africa Games.