THEY might have collapsed at the final hurdle at the just-ended Copa Coca-Cola Africa Cup in Thika, Kenya, but Zimbabwe surpassed their previous performance by reaching the finals of the event.
Twelve countries took part in the four-day tournament targeting Under-16s from Monday to Thursday at the M-pesa Foundation Academy.
Zimbabwe reached the final, but lost 2-6 to Tanzania on Thursday.
They had a flying start after beating hosts Kenya and Mozambique in Pool A to proceed to the quarter-finals where they beat Namibia.
They then clashed with Zambia and pulled through to the final. Although they could not win the ultimate prize, it was an improved show for the Zimbabwe, who last year failed to go beyond the group stages.
They also produced the player of the tournament in Luke Musikiri, who was instrumental in helping his side reach the final and was on target for the team in almost every game.
He was the top goalscorer for Zimbabwe with six goals to his name.
Speaking to the media soon after their arrival at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday, Musikiri said he was pleased with his achievements.
“I am really excited about this achievement and I want to thank God for this.
“It’s something that I wasn’t expecting, but I just want to thank God for what he has done for me. It’s everyone’s wish to get such recognition.
“I also want to thank my teammates who made it possible for me to achieve this.
“When I went to Kenya, I was hoping to be the top goalscorer, but I got this because of God.
“I am really happy. I didn’t think we would reach the final, but because of God, we did it,” Musikiri.
Team captain Alvin Dube said competing in such tournaments always boosted confidence.
“It’s my pleasure as the captain to firstly thank the parents. This tournament, it was for us upcoming players to showcase our talent,’’ he said.
“I want to thank my colleagues for a good performance. My desire is to make the national team in the future and take care of my parents.’’
Coach Pathias Mauto said the improvement at this year’s edition was encouraging.
“I think it shows that we have got the talent. We have people who are capable of even winning this tournament,’’ he said.
“We have talent, I think we just need to believe in the way we play and make sure that we don’t look at names.’’