Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
MIDFIELDER Joel Ngodzo, who was part of the largely unsuccessful campaign at the 2011 African Nations Championships finals, believes the Warriors have had better support during their preparations this time around and should stand a good chance of bringing back silverware on their fourth successive attempt in Rwanda. Ngodzo is among the 27 players preparing for the tournament that is exclusively designed for locally-based players.
He was also part of the side that was led by Madinda Ndlovu in Sudan five years ago. Ngodzo has been pushing for a second dance at the tournament following a late surge in form with Premiership giants CAPS United.
The former Highlanders and FC Platinum star yesterday said there are marked differences in their approach to business compared to the last time when he was with the Warriors ahead of the second edition of the CHAN tournament.
Then Madinda Ndlovu’s Warriors experienced one of their worst build-ups as they struggled from Day One when being booked into a sub-standard city lodge while they battled to get any allowances.
Five years down the road Ngodzo, a talented winger who has never really reached the kind of peak that his potential shows, is back in the Warriors colours and has found things having changed for the better.
Although not perfect, Ngodzo said the players are happy with the camping facilities and motivated with the support they are getting from the association and even the Ministry of Sport and Recreation.
The Warriors camp suffered a major blow during the second week when the technical team was temporarily fired and the camp dissolved. But normalcy has since returned and morale has been high in the last two weeks. The team was yesterday hosted for a luncheon by ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa at Monomotapa Crown Plaza Hotel, where Minister of Sport and Recreation Makhosini Hlongwane was guest of honour.
Zimbabwe have been to every edition of the CHAN competition and they made their mark at the last outing in South Africa where they finished fourth. “The players are ready. I think they are doing their best in terms of preparations. Everything is well so we should go there, push and try to bring the Cup home. Anything can happen in football but I think the boys are working hard and the morale is high.
“I think there is a difference between now and that time (2011). The preparations this time around are much better. We are having better lodging facilities, better everything,” said Ngodzo.
Zimbabwe are in Group D together with Mali, Uganda and neighbours Zambia. They open their campaign against Chipolopolo on January 19. Ngodzo said they should avoid the pitfall of losing the first match like they did in 2011 when they were stunned by Niger before beating Ghana in the second group game.
The third game against South Africa was demanding and they lost 2-0 and their hopes perished. Ngodzo warned his teammates to treat all the teams with respect and aim for a victory against Chipolopolo. “Football is just the same.
“Even our opponents are also wary of us, the same way we are treating ahead of the tournament. Football is all about focus, believing in yourself and above all working hard. “So some of those things are actually our homework which you need to work on and try to improve when we go to Rwanda. When we failed in the first match in 2011 we were already under some kind of pressure to win the remaining two matches.
“So this time we have to try and do well in our first game. It’s very important to start with a win because it takes away the pressure and boosts confidence.
“It’s a big motivation if we can achieve that,” said Ngodzo.