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Senegal vs Zimbabwe: More than a game

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There were moments acting Warriors gaffer, Saul Chaminuka marvelled at what the video of Sadio Mane’s goals at his club Liverpool showed him while he watched You Tube videos on his tablet in a hotel room in Harare.

John Mokwetsi

Warriors captain Willlard Katsande gestures during Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Algeria
Warriors captain Willlard Katsande gestures during Sunday’s 2-2 draw against Algeria

He smiled and nodded but issued a declaration to this reporter: “We will be ready for this boy and his team.”

It was a setting far from the professional video room with seats where players discuss tactics amid instructions from a video analyst. This was a hotel with pathetic Wifi connectivity that sometimes he waited for five minutes for the video to buffer and play.

Kalisto Pasuwa was in Ivory Coast with a second string team and Saul Chaminuka was the man left in charge. He was preparing for a press conference at Gateway High school, home to the training ground for his charges comprising foreign based players.

He had looked at the videos of the “little diamond” backdating from his days at Southampton. Sometimes he stared blankly at the screen as if he was formulating a strategy on how to contain the player.

He noted with reluctance what has endeared Mane to the English Premiership. It is what the UK Guardian described in glowing and intimidating terms by saying they know he has rapid shuffling feet, jagged runs and an eye for goal.

But Chaminuka felt then as he might feel now that in the personnel that will face Senegal tomorrow in Gabon in their second AFCON match, Mane will find it hard to make those direct runs.

After the 2-all draw against Algeria the Warriors have removed the underdog tag that hanged evidently on their neck in the so called group of death that has Senegal, Algeria and Tunisia.

Even in the press conference in Gabon the opposition is beginning to make cautious statements. Take what the Senegal coach, Aliou Cisse said for an example.

“Zimbabwe players have played together a lot. They understand each other very well such that the match against them will be a very difficult one. From what we have seen so far, I think it points to an interesting match between Senegal and Zimbabwe. We are not under-estimating them, we have to prepare the way we prepared for the Tunisia match,” Cisse said.

Pasuwa will probably look like he took the Senegal threat to his ambitions seriously. It will be remembered that last November he had his assistant coach Mpkupali Masuku attend the South Africa vs Senegal match on a spying mission.

If this was story akin to John Grisham’s fictious novel characters and Pasuwa and his troops were in their lack of wisdom lacking faith something has changed.

It must have changed because the Zimbabwean gaffer is starting to speak like a man who believes.

He is said to have charmed journalists. Lowering his guide to be a little bit vain and dropping the mask that has earned him the moniker of the humble one, he spoke like Jose Mourinho with the cutting wit of a special one.

“Getting a point was good in the sense that we were the underdogs going into this match. Nobody gave us a chance,” he said.

“But I was asked in the pre-match Press conference, which team I thought were the favourites and I told you that for me it was Zimbabwe and you all laughed. So now you see that there is not small team at this tournament. This result will motivate the boys to do even better in the other two games.”

With that Pasuwa announced his arrival and whether his mannerism is confidence or faith he made the right noise to the approval of Zimbabwe.

Mane has a team to beat and it will not be easy to walk away with three points. If at all, this is a match Zimbabweans are confident of winning.

And so it begins on Wednesday at 9pm.

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