AFTER a week spent mourning victims of Cyclone Idai, this country received something to cheer its battered spirits on Sunday when the Warriors sealed their qualification to the 2019 AFCON finals at the National Sports Stadium.
One of the biggest crowds to watch the senior national football team in the past quarter-of-a-century transformed the giant stadium into a sea of gold, green and white colours — defying the huge cost of $10 for the cheapest ticket — to cheer the Warriors in their final qualifier.
Inspirational skipper Knowledge Musona also led from the front, as he has always done for his country, defying a groin injury which had kept him out of action for more than two weeks to play a key role in securing the 2-0 victory over Congo-Brazzaville.
Khama Billiat, the other superstar of this team, also chose the grand occasion to show those who have been questioning if he was still the same player, with a beautiful free-kick which thrust the Warriors on the path to victory.
The joyous scenes at the end, with scores of Zimbabweans spilling onto the field to celebrate with their heroes at the end of the match, were testament of a nation at peace with itself as it toasted this hour of success by a team that means so much to the people of this country.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry was mobbed by a huge number of celebrating fans, with many of them shouting “Kirsty, Kirsty, Kirsty,’’ in yet another beautiful demonstration of the unity that prevailed at the stadium.
This was the real picture of what this country is all about.
Not the one painted by the usual merchants of negativity, who hide behind false identities on Twitter and Facebook to unleash their venom, attacking our leaders like Coventry who have chosen to serve their nation rather than remain trapped in trenches fighting the establishment for their selfish agendas.
There had been fears the Warriors were going to collapse at the final hurdle, something which this team has done again and again in the past, and that it was the Congolese — the team which plunged this nation into mourning in 1991 by destroying our AFCON dreams with a late goal at the same stadium — suggested things could go wrong for our troops.
But, this has been a different and competitive group of Warriors, which now has the pedigree of winning in Kinshasa, where most of the visitors just come to fulfil the fixture, and holding out for a draw in Brazzaville, and they showed their quality with that victory on Sunday.
National sports teams, because they represent everyone who identifies himself or herself with the country, have a massive role to unify their people, cheer the spirits of those citizens and give them a reason to believe in the future.
That is why there was a lot of pressure on these Warriors to successfully complete this mission because the nation badly needed something to cheer its spirits after the massive devastation caused by Cyclone Idai.
And, by the end of the first half, the mission had virtually been accomplished, with the Warriors taking a two-goal lead in a game in which a draw would still have been enough for them to qualify for the 2019 Nations Cup finals in Egypt.
The team’s success also showed what we can achieve as a nation if we unite towards a common goal, and critically, what we also saw from the weekend’s events is that, for all the challenges that keep stalking us, we are a people who remain very proud of their identity as Zimbabweans.
The way people turned Harare into a flag-waving nation throughout the weekend showed that we really love our country and what unites us, which is our shared identity as Zimbabweans, is stronger than whatever divides us.
When we are a country driven by an agenda to see our nation succeeding, instead of the chaos that we usually see when some political misfits try to bring mayhem on our streets through their nonsensical demonstrations, we really paint a beautiful picture of the people that we are.
We want to thank everyone involved in this Warriors success story for standing up to be counted when it mattered most and, crucially, for serving their country with distinction.
We must now start preparing for the AFCON finals so that, when we arrive in Egypt, we should not be there just to make up the numbers, but to compete and target making the quarter-finals of the tournament.
By taking eight points out of a possible 12, from the DRC and Congo-Brazzaville, we showed we can now stand toe-to-toe with some of the best teams on the continent and, given that these two were quarter-finalists at AFCON just four years ago, we have no reason not to be believe we can also get that far too.