Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, has hailed ZIFA partner Wicknell Chivayo and challenged other sponsors to come on board and help the country’s football and strengthen the domestic Premiership. Chivayo unveiled a $1 million sponsorship package for ZIFA and has already paid part of the debt owed to Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet which was threatening Zimbabwe’s participation at the 2022 World Cup.
He has also secured a vehicle for Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa. Mwana Nanga said if ZIFA can get more sponsors to come on board, the country will be able to retain most of its best football talent and teams that the nation sends to such tournaments like CHAN will be very competitive.
He was speaking at the Congolese Embassy in Harare ahead of the DRC’s 2016 CHAN semi-final showdown against Guinea in Kigali today. “We can put structures that they (players) can excel here,” said Mwana Nanga.
“And there is enough resources, enough talent and everything is here for us to do well, to keep most of our talent and not export it. “You have this young man (Chivayo) who has just given a million dollar to ZIFA.
“I am sure we can find 10, 15 millionaires here in Zimbabwe, who can really fund strong teams such that players stay home and make good money right here.” Zimbabwe has over the years been losing most of its talented players to the South African league as they search for greener pastures.
The Warriors lost 0-1 to Zambia and 0-1 to Mali before they drew 1-1 against Uganda in their last Group D match in Rubavu. After reaching the semi-finals in the 2014 CHAN finals, hopes were high the team would, at least, reach the quarter-finals in Rwanda. Zimbabwe and the DRC have qualified for every CHAN finals.
While DRC will be taking on Guinea today in a semi-final in Kigali, the Warriors are back home after a disappointing show in Rwanda. And, speaking at the DRC Embassy in Harare yesterday ahead of today’s game, Mwana Nanga said they have reached this far because of the strong competition within their local league.
“The CHAN is for the local players and the league in DRC is extremely competitive. “You have heard about TP Mazembe and you have heard about AS Vita, (CS) Imana, so we really have strong teams and, in fact, the reigning champions of the Champions League in Africa are TP Mazembe.
“So it’s only normal that a country that has such competitive teams can perform well in this championship for local players. “The problem with other countries, including Zimbabwe, is that once a player emerges he goes to South Africa or to Europe and those players cannot come to play in the CHAN because they are no longer in the local league.
“That’s why Zambia beat Zimbabwe, it’s because they brought back some of the players who played outside and put them back into the local league, the (Christopher) Katongos of this world. “They put them back in the local league, so they were able to now participate in the CHAN and helped Zambia to go as far as they can.
“So if there is a lesson to be learnt here, it’s that it’s important that our players go abroad but it’s equally important to bring some of those boys back so that the people of Zimbabwe have a competitive league.
“We don’t have to be a breeding ground for players to go and make other countries rich and provide the fun to Europe and other countries and not our own population because they also need it,” the Ambassador said.
Turning to today’s game, the DRC ambassador is optimistic they will win the semi-final match to progress to the finals. “I saw the two teams play and I think the DRC is the favourite for this game because we have the strongest attack. “And even though Guinea managed to oust Nigeria, we also ousted the host country (Rwanda).
“The only game we lost was against Cameroon but that was a non-event for us because our coach told himself whether we win or we lose that game, it doesn’t matter, we are already qualified.
“So he put his players to have some rest. And then we had one extra day rest and then, since the game is being played in Rwanda a neighbouring country a lot of our people are going to go and support. “So, with all these factors, I am definitely confident that the DRC will be in finals,” Mwana Nanga said. The other semi-final match will see Mali taking on Cote d’Ivoire.