ZIMBABWEAN football lovers on Thursday received an emotional parting note from Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, who announced his retirement from international football after serving the nation for 12 years.
Musona, who turns 32 in July, will be part of the Zimbabwean football folklore for many years to come, considering his massive contributions in the green and gold colours of the national team.
In short, he was a dedicated servant of football; growing from the national age-group teams where he featured for the national youth teams like the Under-17s and Under-20s, to captaining the Warriors at two AFCON finals.
The announcement on Thursday evening did not come as a shock to many, since Musona had already indicated that his time was up and was contemplating retirement after the delayed 2021 AFCON finals in Cameroon.
It was a journey well-travelled.
And retiring at 32 years in football is quite normal because many players would have slowed down at that age and unable to reproduce the form that they had at the peak of their football powers.
He only made his debut at the senior level at a tender age of 19 years, when he was thrown into the fray by Norman Mapeza in a friendly match against neighbours South Africa, in 2010.
Musona was a football talisman and he gave his all to his nation in the 12 years that he had been part of the national team.
He played under various coaches that included Mapeza, Klaus-Dieter Pagels, Ian Gorowa, Rahman Gumbo, Callsito Pasuwa, Sunday Chidzambwa, Joey Antipas, and lately Zdravko Logarusic.
During all these years, there have been ups and downs.
But he left us memories that we still cherish, even as he contemplates winding down his career at club level.
Musona has been at the heart of the Zimbabwe national football team for the past decade.
He made 51 appearances and scored 24 goals, with the last of his goals coming in his final appearance in the 2-1 win over Guinea at the delayed 2021 AFCON tournament held in Cameroon recently.
In fact, he is one of the few players that have featured in more AFCON tournaments.
Zimbabwe have always struggled to qualify for the continental showpiece in the past and have now made five appearances in 2004, 2005, 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Musona featured in three of the AFCON finals and led the team in two editions in 2019 and 2021 as captain.
He was appointed skipper in 2017 following the retirement of Willard Katsande from international football and carried the arm-band for five good years.
And, in his first game as the Zimbabwe captain in June 2017, he scored a hat-trick, in an AFCON qualifier against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium, to join other national team hat-trick heroes like the legendary Peter Ndlovu and Vitalis Takawira.
Musona, who has been dubbed the national team talisman because of his knack for scoring crucial goals, is now in the twilight of his career at Saudi Arabian side, Al Tai.
The multitude of Zimbabwean fans are surely going to miss him on the field of play.
Not that he had to keep kicking even when age was evidently catching up with him, but there is always the strange feeling of sadness when one says his goodbyes.
The reactions to his statement posted on several social media platforms tell it all. It’s sad he leaves at a time when local football is shrouded in uncertainty following the FIFA suspension.
But when the game eventually resumes, it will be a new era for Zimbabwe, without one of the players that had become a household name for over a decade. And, for all the sacrifices and milestones, we can never say thank you enough.
Hats off to Musona, you represented the Zimbabwe badge with distinction.
You played your part and it is now time for a new generation of players to take over from where you left.