The boys are back in town BACK IN TOWN . . . Warriors defender Teenage Hadebe (with a black wool hat) is being helped to push his luggage by a ZIFA marshal at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport yesterday upon his return from the African Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon

Tadious Manyepo recently in YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon

THE first batch of Warriors touched down in Harare yesterday from their disappointing Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Cameroon.

Zimbabwe were knocked out of the biannual tournament after playing just two games in Group B.

They lost 0-1 to Senegal and 1-2 to Malawi to become the first team in the 24-team competition to exit. Their dead-rubber 2-1 win over Guinea in the last game didn’t matter at the end.

And the team has been thinning out from their base in Yaounde with the locally-based players the first to leave camp on Wednesday.

Godknows Murwira, Petros Mhari, Peter Muduwa and Kelvin Madzongwe were joined by United States-based defender Teenage Hadebe and Supersport United utility player Kuda Mahachi on the plane back home.

Assistant coach Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu and goalkeepers’ trainer Energy Murambadoro as well as security staffer Eddie Chivero are some of the officials that accompanied the players.

The delegation touched down at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport shortly after lunch yesterday. The Warriors could not travel together back home due to logistical issues, including unavailability of flights from Cameroon.

As a result, some players based in Europe will fly straight back to their bases from the West African nation.

Warriors manager, Wellington Mpandare, confirmed the first batch arrived in Harare. The larger group is expected home today.

“We could not travel back home as a team due to logistical challenges from this end,” he said.

“There are challenges in getting flights and we got only a few seats on Wednesday and we decided that the locally-based players go first.

“They were accompanied by Hadebe and Mahachi.

“The second batch will follow on Friday (today) as we have secured more seats this time around. But the foreign contingent, including Zemura (Jordan), will head straight back to their bases.”

Three Europe-based players, Alec Mudimu, David Moyo and goalkeeper Martin Mapisa, were not given any minutes by coach Norman Mapeza, whose selection criteria was partly blamed for the disappointing show by the Warriors.

The trio made a combined 35 000km journey to the AFCON finals and trained hard together with the rest of the squad.

Mudimu, who plies his trade in Georgia, even joined camp when the Warriors were still training in Zimbabwe back in December before they left for Cameroon two days before New Year.

But he was continuously ignored by Mapeza who stuck with his central defence partnership of Gerald Takwara and Teenage Hadebe in the first two games before replacing Hadebe, who was suspended, with Peter Muduwa in the last match against Guinea.

So frustrated was Mudimu when he got wind he could still be on the bench when the team held their first training session in Yaoundé after their arrival from Bafoussam that he excused himself from the work-outs.

He was said to have complained of a headache owing to excessive heat in the Cameroonian capital although he was training with the team in even hotter conditions in Bafoussam before.

Moyo plays for Hamilton Academical in Scotland and was never used as Mapeza preferred Tino Kadewere, Prince Dube and Admiral Muskwe for the centre-forward role.

Young Spain-based goalie Mapisa watched all the three games from the bench with Petros Mhari entrusted with keeping goal in the first two games while Talbert Shumba was the man between the posts against Guinea.

With significant financial support from the Government, starting with their preparations and participation, the Warriors were expected to do better given they were in a fair group.

But a combination of wrong team selection by Mapeza and errors by his players made sure the team would, for the fifth time of asking, fail to progress to the next round that even Malawi, in only their third appearance at the AFCON finals, have managed to.

Sports and Recreation Commission acting Director General, Sebastian Garikai, said the team showed promise and his commission was ready to continue support the team.

The Government, through the Sports Commission, set aside US$1million for the team’s preparations and participation at AFCON.

The corporate world has also been invited to lend their support, with FBC pledging winning bonuses, and houses in the event the team had brought home the cup.

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