Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors chose the perfect way to cheer the nation’s spirits when they powered their way to the 32nd African Cup of Nations finals following a deserved victory over Congo (Brazaville) at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
The country is still in mourning following the death of hundreds of people and loss of property caused by Cyclone Idai.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s men, who arrived at the stadium needing only a draw to secure a successive qualification, found the victory that brought smiles on the nation and cheered spirits through a goal each by Khama Billiat and captain Knowledge Musona.
The Warriors wore black armbands, while a minute of silence was observed before the start of the match in honour of the victims of the cyclone.
Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kirsty Coventry saluted the Warriors for their victory and dedicating their win to the Cyclone victims.
More importantly, the triumph also came on the second of the two days of mourning which had been declared by President Mnangagwa.
Minister Coventry said she was proud with the way the Warriors had absorbed the pressure of playing at home and securing their win.
“I am very proud of the team, they had a lot of pressure coming into the game and they played so well, the possession was always ours, they were in full control. And I am very proud of them.
“I think it’s been an amazing win for Zimbabwe especially with what the country has gone through over the last week. The boys were playing with everybody in mind and I think that has made it really special.
“The boys were wearing the black bands in honour of everyone that lost their lives or homes and they felt that it was extremely important for them to win not just for the country but for all of those people that are struggling in Manicaland. So they went above and beyond today and they have made us extremely proud,’’ Coventry said.
Principal director in the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Recreation Benson Martins Dube also welcomed the win which guaranteed the Warriors a place among the 24 countries that will line-up at the Nations cup tournament in Egypt in June.
“I am very happy about what the boys have done for us especially at this time when are in mourning. They have really done us proud,’’ Dube said.
Former Zimbabwe Olympic Committee president Tommy Sithole who was also among the strong crowd estimated at 55 000 noted that in tough times such as those brought about by the cyclone, a needed something that went some way to cheer their spirits.
“Well I think this is absolutely fantastic. We deserved to win, we were at home and we had everything going for us, the crowd.
“We need this at this particular time of the grief that has befallen all of us so we needed something to pep us up and the boys came to the party it is fantastic.
“We have got at least something to cheer. We are of course in grief, we have lost hundreds of our own people, we have lost property but this is something to cheer, it is something we should be all happy about.
“Of course we are not forgetting what’s happened in the East, we are not forgetting about our comrades and friends in Malawi and in Mozambique but this is a little bit of cheer and thank God for it and we thank our boys for it said Sithole.
The Civil Protection Unit (CPU) at the weekend confirmed the latest figure of 154 deaths, while 187 remained unaccounted for.
About 4 884 were completely displaced, while 136 were still marooned with 162 injured.
“The death toll for the Cyclone Idai-induced floods continues to rise. The following is an update on Cyclone Idai as at 22nd March 2019. A proper assessment has not yet been undertaken due to access challenges. The domestic and international appeal document for assistance is being finalised and is scheduled to be launched on Tuesday 26 March 2019 (tomorrow). Access to the affected areas has improved following the clearing of road from Chipinge to Chimanimani Town. Weather condition has also improved despite some intermittent rainfall episodes in the affected areas. Search and rescue efforts are underway, albeit difficult conditions,” said CPU in a statement.