BY KEVIN MAPASURE
Government has challenged the Warriors to win the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) which will be played in Cameroon between January and February next year.
Zimbabwe is one of the 24 nations that will participate at the finals after they qualified for the finals for the third time on the trot.
Zifa has set a minimum target of at least a knockout stage qualification, but government, which funds the Warriors at the finals, has demanded more.
In a speech read on her behalf at the Afcon trophy tour of Zimbabwe on Saturday night, Sport minister Kirsty Coventry set the bar high for the Warriors.
“Ladies and gentlemen, today we witness and welcome the trophy presentation of the Total Energies 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals here in Zimbabwe, this auspicious occasion organised by Total Energies, a major partner of Caf. I am excited as this gives impetus to the government’s vision 2030, which targets to have a prosperous upper middle-income society by 2030 with job opportunities and a high quality
“This vision cannot be achieved without including sport development, which not only enhances the quality of life of people, but represents a leisure economy, which generates significant employment opportunities especially for the youths. Sport development includes regulated, formalised and structured sporting activities,” she said.
“Sport development leads to equitable access to all sporting opportunities. Sport also enhances peace, national tranquillity by bringing people together. We extend an invitation to Total Energies for a partnership in support for the development of our sporting and recreation sector.
“We challenge our very own Warriors to give a good account of themselves by bringing home this cup. I am confident of the success of our local sporting sector.”
The Warriors will open their campaign with a match against Senegal on January 10 before a clash with Malawi four days later, while they finish off their group assignments with a match against Guinea.
The top two nations automatically qualify to the knockout stages, while there is another window via the best third-place finishers.
The Warriors have never made it beyond the group stages and have made it their priority to at least reach the knockouts.
Team manager Wellington Mupandare, who was at the function representing Zifa, said the team would try to bring glory back home.
“Unfortunately, most of the Warriors players could not be here to witness the trophy parade, but we have here Partson Jaure and Godknows Murwira to represent their colleagues. The players would have wanted to be here, but they are busy at their clubs in different countries all over the world. We will go to the finals and try to do our best. We will do everything possible to bring the cup back home. The Warriors are motivated to go there and represent the country with dignity and pride,” Mupandare said.
Warriors team doctor Nick Munyonga was also at the function but there was not a single Zifa board member.
The Warriors are currently being led by former captain Norman Mapeza, who is presiding on an interim basis following the sacking of Zdravko Logarušić after a run of poor results.
It is not clear at this stage who will be coach at the finals, after the Warriors lost back-to-back World Cup qualifiers to Ghana under Mapeza’s watch.
Zifa said it would invite applications for the job after Mapeza’s three-month tenure. Sunday Chidzambga presided over the team at its last Afcon finals in Egypt, where it finished with a single point in its group after losing to Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and managed a point against Uganda.
Before that, Kalisto Pasuwa’s side came back with the same points tally from the 2017 finals in Gabon.
Chidzambga and Charles Mhlauri had previously guided Zimbabwe to the finals in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
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