Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
ACTING President Emmerson Mnangagwa has challenged the Warriors to go for gold by winning the 2014 African Nations Championship trophy when they launch their latest quest to win the tournament in Rwanda next week.
Mnangagwa told the Warriors, during a grand send-off ceremony organised by the Sport and Recreation Ministry in Harare last night, a few hours before the team’s departure for Rwanda, that it was about time Callisto Pasuwa and his men fought to bring the trophy to Zimbabwe.
The Warriors have played at each and every edition of the CHAN finals since the inception of the tournament in 2009 and finished unbeaten, despite crashing out in the group stages, at the first tournament in Cote d’Ivoire.
Two years ago, the Warriors finished fourth at the CHAN finals in South Africa after losing a penalty shoot-out semi-final battle against eventual winners Libya.
The Warriors were scheduled to leave in batches for their adventure in Rwanda, with the first group expected to have left just after midnight while the rest of the squad will travel this afternoon.
“On behalf of his Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Cde R. G Mugabe, it is my great honour and pleasure to officiate at this grand send-off ceremony for our national soccer team, the Warriors, who will be representing Zimbabwe during the 2016 edition of the African Nations Championship tournament to be held in Rwanda from 16th January to 7th February,” Mnangagwa said in his keynote address.
“We applaud our brave and hardworking Warriors for making Zimbabwe proud by their very act of qualifying for the CHAN tournament.
“However, we recognise that while qualifying is a feat which most countries look forward to, for us, competing at this prestigious continental event is now tradition, which saw the Warriors attain fourth place in the 2014 tournament.
“The challenge, before us, is to now win the championship.
“Bring home the championship, Go Warriors Go, Go Warriors Go, Endai munotamba bhora muvadye muchinzvenga, mogowesa. Kana mukauya neCup chiregai muone mashura atichaita ekukufadzai. Toda kukufadzai. Nesuwo sehurumende toda kuona tokufadzai sei.
“Ladies and gentlemen, my presence here attests to Government’s commitment to ensuring the transformation of the sports, arts and culture sectors into vibrant industries that promote equitable participation, social integration and economic empowerment.”
Mnangagwa said the national team should display the fighting spirit of the country’s founding fathers who fought in the liberation struggle.
“Go to Rwanda and fight like the Warriors of the past, who brought about liberation, and birth of our great nation,” said Mnangagwa.
“Fortunately, unlike those of the First and Second Chimurenga, your combat involves neither bows, arrows and spears nor AK 47s, SARs and machine guns.
“Yours is a fight for national pride, joy and jubilation, sporting distinction, prestige and honour. Fight a good fight, fight as a disciplined team, united, coherent and purposeful, emboldened by the word of God which says that where there is unity, God will command blessings.”
He said despite the injuries which have ravaged the team and sidelined some players, including skipper Danny “Deco” Phiri, and the lack of a competitive friendly match, the team should defy the odds in Rwanda.
“I am aware that the gallant Warriors camp is ridden with injuries and that, unlike their counterparts in Group D, the Eagles of Mali, the Cranes of Uganda, and Chipolopolo of Zambia, they did not have the opportunity to play any international friendlies,” said Mnangagwa.
“I hope, however, that the game against Harare City was useful in assessing some aspects of their game.
“It has been said that the squad is ‘star studded’, however, I am confident that the team will play as a unit and bear the expectations of the nation as such.
“Captain Hardlife Zvirekwi, we are confident that you will use your experience from CHAN 2014 and other high pressure tournaments, to keep the rest of the team focused, especially when the chips are down.”
The Acting President kept the guests laughing during his speech as he talked about how the team should play and ensure that “bhora mugedhi”.
“We look forward to innovative creations in midfield, precision in the strike force with breath-taking finishes and, of course, a water-tight defence at the back,” he said while making it clear that everyone, including the Government were firmly behind coach Callisto Pasuwwa.
“The nation anticipates an exciting technical approach and game plan from coach Pasuwa and the rest of the technical team. We believe you are all up to the challenge,” said Mnangagwa.
“Turning to the fans, I urge us all to put aside our political, religious, ethnic differences as well as local team preferences and rally behind the Warriors, united as a nation.
“Sport, like music, is therapeutic and offers relief from our everyday realities. In this regard, I challenge musicians to compose jiggles with lyrics encouraging our brave Warriors.”
He said the Government remained committed to transforming sport into a vibrant sector and has so far been very supportive.
“The heights the beautiful game of football has reached in Zimbabwe would not have been possible without the sponsorship and support of Government, the corporate world and the generality of Zimbabweans.
“We applaud and celebrate all who made this milestone possible.
“Government recognises the multi-faceted benefits of sport with regards to health, recreation and increasingly, as a source of livelihood. Furthermore, sport is being progressively used as a tool to enhance social cohesion, build peace and manage conflicts.
“The sector also has potential to significantly contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Hence sports should be vigorously pursued as we explore new avenues for employment creation as well as generation of revenue through sport tourism,” said Mnangagwa.
The ceremony was attended Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane, his permanent secretary Godfrey Chipare and Sports Commission acting board chairman Edward Siwela.
ZIFA board members, led by their president Philip Chiyangwa, were also present.
And Mnangagwa praised Chiyangwa for the hard work that he was putting in to transform ZIFA and he said he was confident that the businessman will not fail. ZIFA benefactor Chivayo said he was ready to pour more money into the team’s coffers if they do very well in Rwanda.
The businessman, who has already secured a car for Pasuwa, has also given the team some money for their allowances while Chiyangwa also chipped in.
It was an electrifying moment as the Warriors took to the podium to sing with guest artist Bob Nyabinde.
A small band of the Warriors supporters led by Chris “Romario” Musekiwa and Zivanai Muwashu told the gathering that they were mobilising resources to ensure that they will cheer the team in their Rwandan adventure.
Musekiwa also revealed that his fellow cheerleader, Alvin “Aluvha” Zhakata, had already left for Rwanda by road.