THE Warriors, who reached the semi-finals of the Caf Orange African Nations Championships (Chan) in South Africa, returned home last night from one of their most successful tournaments since independence.
The national team will have a reception in Harare this morning before they disperse to their respective local clubs.
Simba Sithole of How Mine remained in South Africa where he is sorting out his move to Ajax Cape Town, but is expected in Bulawayo tomorrow.
The Warriors fell 5-4 to Libya in the semi-finals. This was the first time that the Warriors had reached the last four of the competition in its history. In the last two editions in 2009 and 2011 in Ivory Coast and Sudan respectively, the Warriors faltered at the group stages.
At the airport last night was Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga, Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze, communications manager Xolisani Gwesela and Zifa board member marketing Nigel Munyati.
A group of supporters calling themselves the Lifelong Football Trust was also at the airport with a huge banner inscribed: “Welcome the Warriors, our heroes. You have done our nation proud. We will always support you.”
Timothy Mavhura (31) of Chitungwiza said: “We are here to show our appreciation on what the boys did. They did us proud. We never thought they will go all the way to the semis. With enough support, I think these guys can do even much better.”
Former Dynamos captain Desmond Maringwa, who was also in Cape Town and Bloemfontein, supporting the Warriors also arrived last night.
Just around 2100hrs, the crowd was swelling to about 200 as the Warriors patiently completed their formalities inside the arrival area with Mashingaidze’s assistance. Kanengoni-Malinga addressed the national team inside the airport arrivals hall as the crowd continued swelling.
First to step out was team manager Sharif Mussa, followed by left back Milton Ncube and then goalkeeper George Chigova, to loud cheers. Hardlife Zvirekwi followed closely behind, all smartly dressed in white Umbro shirts and black tracksuit bottoms.
With Chigova having made his way out, the crowd started chanting Kuda Mahachi’s name, but the skilful ginger-haired midfielder, who also won the man of the match accolade and scored against Mali, was still inside the arrivals talking to the deputy minister.
Then captain Partson Jaure emerged to much more frenzy from the fans as the security battled to control the fans, who wanted to get closer to the defender.
Coach Ian Gorowa then followed with his lieutenants Kalisto Pasuwa, Gift Muzadzi and Mkhuphali Masuku. Then the big moment arrived when the darling of the crowd Mahachi came out, and oh boy, total pandemonium followed as the fans stampeded just to touch the player. All the players and the members of the technical team then made their way to a waiting coach for a deserved rest before this morning’s reception.
Fans, driving in cars drapped in the Zimbabwe flag, were hooting all around the airport and followed the team’s coach as it left for the players’ lodge.