AFTER a six-month break, the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers continue across the continent this Easter weekend and our beloved Warriors are heavily involved as they take on Swaziland in back-to-back action today and on Monday.
The Warriors will be at Somhlohlo National Stadium in Mbabane today before hosting Swaziland at the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
It has been a decade since the Warriors featured at the Nations Cup finals when they took part at the 2006 tournament in Egypt.
As the Warriors plunge into battle today, and on Monday, it is imperative that they put behind them the match-fixing scam that has been hovering over their matches against Swaziland and threatened to put into question their integrity.
It is also important that the nation avoids exerting undue pressure on the Warriors and allow room for mistakes, especially on Monday when they play at home because what they need from every Zimbabwean now more than ever is a show of appreciation and support rather than ridicule.
Coach Callisto Pasuwa and his men are primed for possible Nations Cup qualification and ending that decade-long wait to qualify the biannual continental football showcase if only they can maintain their unbeaten run in their group.
The Warriors’ qualification destiny is still very much within their control and all they need now is the support of the 12th man — the supporters – and crucially the support of a corporate world that has often been guilty of taking a wait-and- see attitude and only surfacing when the team has qualified.
It is the qualification battle that is much tougher as the Warriors must travel across the length and breadth of Africa in their bid to secure a ticket to the Nations Cup finals and the fact of the matter is that ZIFA alone cannot fund the team.
There are some people who believe that the Warriors would have failed if they pick up a point in Swaziland but that is not true because, while we want our boys to win, and we believe that we have the capacity to triumph today, a draw might not be a bad result.
Swaziland are not the whipping boys that they were a few years ago, their football has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years and, while they might now have players who ply their trade at top European clubs, they are a collective unit that punches above their weight.
This is the same Swazi team that held Nigeria in the same stadium where our Warriors will be in action today and if the Super Eagles could come out with a draw, why then should we believe that a draw will be a disastrous result for our men?
We need them to win but we need to be careful not to exert too much pressure on them, because they will end up making elementary mistakes.
As has been shown in many successful qualifying campaigns, it’s the teams that pick a point away from home, and full points in their backyard, which usually qualify and, so far, our boys are on the right track with four points.
And as we say Go Warriors Go, this Easter weekend it is important that the whole nation rallies behind the country’s flagship sporting team.
One individual, Wicknell Chivayo, has already led the way by stepping up to support ZIFA and the Warriors, but it must not be left to the Harare businessman alone because funding the national teams is a collective responsibility of the citizens of this country, including the Government.
The players need to be handsomely rewarded for them to stay motivated and for that to happen, there is need for sound financial assistance to ZIFA and to the Warriors and the Mighty Warriors, who are also a round away from qualifying for the African Women Nations Cup.
We trust that the supporters will come to the National Sports Stadium and fill the giant facility to capacity and make it an intimidating atmosphere for Swaziland.
That is one major way the fans can contribute to the Warriors success and as chief striker Knowledge Musona told The Herald earlier this week, home advantage can really count when you have the numbers filing up the stadium and urging our boys in their crucial battles.
It is not about Philip Chiyangwa, it is not about Callisto Pasuwa, it is not about Wicknell Chivayo it is about our pride as a nation, our pride as a people, so let all roads lead to the National Sports Stadium to sing Go Warriors, Score Warriors!