Robson Sharuko in CAIRO, Egypt
NYASHA MUSHEKWI has dangled a carrot to his Warriors to win tomorrow’s final Group A match, in return for a financial reward he will extend to each member of the team, in a bold illustration of the swift in focus from the boardroom bedlam to the quest to write success stories in their camp.
The China-based forward, who is the most experienced player in the Zimbabwean squad, was injured in the first game against Egypt and, while team doctor Sonani Mudariki said his injury could take three weeks to heal, Mushekwi has been battling to return ahead of schedule should the team qualify for the knock-out stages.
Zimbabwe will take on the Democratic Republic of Congo in their final Group A match with a victory virtually guaranteeing them a place in history as the first group of Warriors to escape the group stages of the AFCON finals.
Mushekwi is retiring from international duty after this tournament and his offer to his teammates, to try and win tomorrow’s game, came on a refreshing day of calm for the Warriors, after the chaos of the previous night when their participation in this tournament had appeared to be in the balance, following a stalemate between ZIFA and the players over payments.
The Herald can reveal that:
- ZIFA fulfilled their commitment to pay each of the players, and their technical staff members, US$2 500 – breaking the impasse that had put last night’s training session in doubt – after a series of meetings between the players, technical staff members and the association’s officials eventually resulted in a deal being struck.
- The players, and their technical staff, are still expecting a further US$3 000 which was promised by the fundraising committee and, with the level of trust between the two parties being high after assurances provided by the committee’s chairman, Kazembe Kazembe, the Acting Sports Minister, this isn’t sparking unrest.
- That will bring the payments that have been made to the players, and their coaching staff, to – at least – US$17 500, leaving ZIFA to settle a balance of US$6 650, to each member of the Warriors, which includes a US$3 000 draw bonus from the game against Uganda, for this adventure.
- Demands by the players that they should be paid the entire US$12 050, each, which was remaining from their package by yesterday, had threatened to bring a premature end to their 2019 AFCON adventure after ZIFA officials revealed they didn’t have the financial muscle to make such a commitment.
- To keep the camp united, the initial decision to send Tino Kadewere and Tafadzwa Kutinyu home, for an altercation they had in camp, would be rescinded and the authorities are not looking at the possibility of just fining the two after the duo showed a lot of remorse and asked for forgiveness.
- Given they are both seen as key members of the future of the Warriors, the ZIFA officials now feel an expulsion of the duo will have far-reaching implications on their international careers and, because they have shown a remorse, they should stay in camp and be possibly fined.
- The same reprieve has been handed to midfielder, Kuda Mahachi, who also appeared on the way home for questioning the decisions of the coaches on social media, especially in relation to why he hasn’t featured in any game here, while defender Jimmy Dzingai could also meet the same fate for a WhatsApp conversation.
‘‘Today (yesterday) was a good day for the Warriors camp and that’s why even the hardline approach which the authorities had mooted, in terms of the disciplinary issues, has been softened,’’ sources said.
‘‘Nyasha was the toast of the camp today and the boys even came with him to a meal singing that he was the new Igwe (chief) after the announcement of the incentives.
‘‘Let’s see, now, how we will take on DRC because, after the dark cloud that has been hanging over our camp, today has been a good one.’’
Indeed, the Warriors camp appeared a green oasis of tranquillity yesterday with Mushekwi, who plays for Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, challenging his teammates to try and win tomorrow’s battle to make history and cheer the spirits of those supporting them back home.
‘‘Nyasha has offered an incentive, which he will pay to each of us, should we win the match against DRC in what has been a positive development and indication of how the mood has changed in camp,’’ sources told The Herald.
‘‘He had a meeting with coach Sunday Chidzambwa and the other technical staff members on Thursday night where the gaffer reminded him that he was the most experienced player in the squad and should be seen to be helping the younger members of our team, who are rising through the ranks, and could use this tournament to get some good deals.
‘‘The coach said while it was important that the players should be rewarded financially, as promised, it was also important that the value of what a good run at this tournament is emphasised because there are a lot of scouts out there who are looking for players and could change the lives of many of the players.’’
Already, a number of suitors are queuing up to try and sign centre-back, Alec Mudimu, one of the stars of these Warriors who wept uncontrollably in the dressing room, after the draw against Uganda, overwhelmed by the emotions that came with failing to win a game that was there for the taking for them.
Other clubs are also checking the progress of winger Talent Chawapiwa who has been advised that his Twitter account, where he describes himself as a ‘‘neighbourhood drug dealer,’’ could turn off the interest of professional suitors.
The Warriors took four points from the DRC in the qualifiers for this AFCON finals but the Leopards are likely to be a different team tomorrow because they are fighting for their pride, after losing their first matches, and also know their opponents well.
Meanwhile, the Warriors head of delegation, Farai Jere, yesterday said they were relieved that one of their prominent fans, Alvin ‘‘Aluvha’’ Zhakata, who has been embarking on a Cape to Cairo adventure to watch the AFCON finals, had now been located in the Sudanese capital Khartoum.
‘‘We were concerned about his safety and he went quiet for a number of days, he is one of us, he is a true fan of the Warriors and football and we are happy he is safe and we will continue to monitor his movements,’’ Jere said.