Mhari reflects on heroics

12 Jan, 2022 - 00:01 0 Views
Mhari reflects on heroics HEARTACHE . . . Zimbabwe goalkeeper Petros Mhari (left) looks distraught after conceding a last-gasp penalty from Senegal’s Sadio Mane (No.10) during Monday’s AFCON Group B opener at the Baffousam Omnisport Stadium in Cameroon. — AFP

The Herald

Tadious Manyepo in BAFOUSSAM, Cameroon
IT’S an area which has been giving successive Warriors coaches headaches.

And the Zimbabwean football fans too.

Each time the national team trooped onto the pitch, in recent years, there have always been concerns over this critical department.

Even the constant change of personnel couldn’t really fix the problem.

But, it seems the issue has been rectified in the best manner possible.

Yet, even before the Warriors kicked-off their African Cup of Nations campaign against Senegal at the Baffousam Omnisport Stadium in Cameroon on Monday, concerns were still there.

Coach Norman Mapeza elected to give his FC Platinum goalminder Petros Mhari the stick ahead of his experienced peer Talbert Shumba and the impressive Martin Mapisa, who is based in Spain.

In fact, with a defence which on paper looked lightweight, everyone thought Mhari wasn’t the right choice out of the goalkeeping lot.

But, it didn’t take long before the 32-year-old showed he could, after all, be the solution needed to stabilise the department that has been in turmoil over the years.

Facing arguably the most lethal strikeforce, led by Liverpool talisman Sadio Mane, at the 24-team jamboree, Mhari had to be at his best.

And he was.

It’s unfortunate, very unfortunate he conceded a last-minute penalty, that looked harsh under the circumstances after Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar had spotted a handball.

The former Hwange goalkeeper shed a tear in the dressing room as the dejected Warriors struggled to figure out what they did wrong given their gallantry for the majority of the afternoon.

But, one could feel for Mhari, who was the standout man, although for some reasons, the man-of-the-match accolade went to Mane.

With the match opening at an electric pace, it looked like the Warriors would be thrown to the litter bin by the Senegalese who threw everything from the first whistle.

But, Mhari, wouldn’t let the West Africans have it their way.

He denied Mane at point-blank range, not once but twice, and his reading of the game was also key to keeping the Lions of Teranga at bay.

The media-shy Mhari struggled even to utter a word after the match.

He was too distraught he had to concede a morale-sapping last-minute penalty from the man he had kept at bay the entire afternoon.

“It felt like the end of the world. I didn’t want to concede. That is the ultimate objective for any goalkeeper. But, that’s the nature of the game. Sometimes, these are the things that happen,” said Mhari.

“We had a good game. I salute the team. Look, I had to play my part.

“You motivate yourself and you can also realise that everyone was motivated. That is the spirit we want in the team, the spirit which can take us far in the tournament . . . ”

Mhari believes the Warriors can still progress beyond the group stages, despite the bitter loss in the opening match.

The Warriors have failed to reach the knock-out stages in the past four AFCON editions they have qualified for.

“I believe we can break that jinx. We are a team which is showing hunger. We are a team which has shown a lot of potential and we can progress to the knock-out stages if we continue with the high spirits,” said Mhari.

“We have the potential. We showed great capabilities in the first game against Senegal and going forward we can do better.”

Zimbabwe play Malawi in their next match on Friday at the same venue they used against Senegal before they take the 267-kilometre journey to Yaounde to conclude their group business against Guinea on Tuesday next week.

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