Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Warriors coach, Sunday Chidzambwa, believes the senior national football team have been drawn in a fair Africa Cup of Nations qualifying group that has Morocco, South Africa and Liberia.
The Warriors are in Group K, and two teams will advance to the finals, which will be held in Cote d’ Ivoire next year.
However, Zimbabwe only have a few weeks to put their house in order and get reinstated by FIFA in order for the Warriors to participate in the AFCON qualifiers.
Speaking after the draw, the first coach to take Zimbabwe to the Promised Land in 2004, Chidzambwa, described the group that has two teams from the COSAFA region as fair.
The coach, who was back at the AFCON finals in 2019, however, called for early preparations if Zimbabwe is readmitted by FIFA.
The AFCON qualifiers are scheduled to start in June and CAF were expected to announce the fixtures shortly after the draw last night.
Morocco have qualified for continental showpiece 18 times, winning it once in 1976, while Bafana Bafana have qualified 10 times and lifted the trophy in 1996.
Liberia have qualified for AFCON twice in 1996 and 2002.
The Warriors have qualified five times, and three times on the bounce, fom 2017.
“I think it’s a very fair draw for us. It’s a good draw for us. South Africa and us are at par,’’ said Chidzambwa.
‘‘We are almost at the same level with them. Their team and play has changed a lot and they are building a new team. They beat us in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, we lost in South Africa.
‘‘But, if we put our act together, we can compete against South Africa and Liberia. As for Morocco, we can give them a good run. If we prepare well, we can compete against North African teams.
‘‘But, I am sure this time if we are going to play in the qualifiers, we will be competitive enough, I have confidence that people who will be running our football will do a good job.
“It is high time we go beyond the group stages at the AFCON finals. We now know the terrain, and some of the challenges that have affected the morale of the players at these tournaments, such as remuneration, are now a thing of the past.
“With South Africa it’s a derby, we are separated by the Limpopo, and we can match them on any given day, although they are building a new team.
‘‘Personally, I am not intimidated by South Africa and I don’t fear them. Even Liberia, the last time we played them (2019 AFCON qualifiers), we conceded a stupid goal away, I was in charge of that game.
‘‘Norman Mapeza was in charge of the return leg in Harare,” said Chidzambwa.
The Warriors and the Lone Star also met in 2010 in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
They drew 1-1 in Monrovia, with skipper Knowledge Musona scoring his debut goal for his country.
Zimbabwe won the reverse leg 1-0 at home.
In the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, Zimbabwe lost 1-0 away before they turned on the heat at home to beat the Lone Star 3-0, with Musona scoring a hat-trick.
The legendary coach said there was need to bring in as many players, who were born on foreign soil, or left the country when they were still young, into the team.
“There is need to help the coach with overseas players. Someone needs to watch them and rope them into the team.
‘‘The good players are out there, but the only problem is that we want to do our things at the last-minute,” said Mhofu.
Minister of Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation, Kirsty Coventry, believes solutions will be found soon, leading to the lifting of the FIFA ban.
Coventry told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation that her office was seized with the problems bedevilling the domestic game following the recent suspension of Zimbabwe membership by FIFA.
“My appeal is that you trust me, I am asking for your trust. There are things that are happening. I want to promise the committee that at the end of the day, I am not interested in politics otherwise I would be a politician.
“I am not interested in the flexing of muscles; people are there to do their jobs. My biggest interest and focus is the protection of athletes because, I, as an athlete, understand what they have been going through, and it’s not okay.
“I don’t want my athletes to miss out on any games because it means opportunities for them to put bread on their tables. So I want to assure you that I am doing everything in my power to make sure that there is a coming together, figuring out a mutual way forward that is a win-win.
“So, please have faith and trust that there are many things happening but for now, also because it is still in the legal courts, there is just not a lot that I can really reveal about all that information at this point.
“But every single person involved right now, whether it be on the SRC board, the ZIFA board members, everyone has the best interests of moving Zimbabwean football forward.
“I believe that you will see some things in the next few weeks.
‘‘You will be hearing from the football members and you have to be able to respect that and also support them.
“Football is our heartbeat, it is part of who we are as Zimbabweans and every single person that is moving things forward and driving for change believes in that,” said Coventry.
Full AFCON Draw
Group A: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome/Mauritius
Group B: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Togo, Eswatini
Group C: Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Burundi
Group D: Egypt, Guinea, Malawi, Ethiopia
Group E: Ghana, Madagascar, Angola
Group F: Algeria, Uganda, Niger, Tanzania
Group G: Mali, Congo, The Gambia, South Sudan
Group H: Cote D’Ivoire, Zambia, Comoros, Lesotho
Group I: Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Mauritania, Sudan
Group J: Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Botswana
Group K: Morocco, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Liberia
Group L: Senegal, Benin, Mozambique, Rwanda