Proud Mighty Warriors back home
THE Mighty Warriors returned home yesterday with a spring in their step, despite losing all their three group matches at the Olympic Games in Brazil, with skipper Felistas Muzongondi saying they were proud of the way they represented the country in their maiden appearance at the global sports showcase.
The team blazed a trail by becoming the first Zimbabwe national football side to qualify for the Olympics but they found the going tough in Brazil, where their inexperience was exposed, as they lost all their group games against Germany, Canada and Australia.
Zimbabwe conceded 15 goals, leaking six goals against Germany and Australia, but the Mighty Warriors scored a goal in each of the matches. They charmed a number of neutrals, including Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, who hailed the Mighty Warriors saying the team had earned his respect with the way they had battled against adversity to play at the Olympic Games.
“Respect to these girls: Mavis (Chirandu) and teammates, keep going,” tweeted Kompany.
The influential Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail, ran a complementary headline which said: “Zimbabwe’s women soccer players are Mighty Warriors indeed,” in tribute to the way the team performed in Brazil.
“The members of the Zimbabwe women’s soccer team hold down day jobs when they are not moonlighting as the Mighty Warriors,” journalist Neil Davidson wrote in that article.
“Captain Felistas Muzongondi, a 30-yearold forward who plays club soccer for the Mwenezana Queens, is a clerical worker with a sugar manufacturer. Coach Shadreck Mlauzi is a physical education teacher and part-time national team coach.
“Twelve members of the 18-woman Zimbabwe roster play for club teams that are affiliated with their work - the Flame Lily Queens are corrections officers while the Black Rhinos represent the army and the Blue Swallows Queens are the air force.
“The 93rd-ranked Zimbabweans endured a rocky Olympic qualifying road that was short on cash, resources and respect.
“There were only a few reporters in the Corinthians Arena news conference room but if a volunteer had passed around a hat, it would have been quickly filled in a bid to support the plucky African team that was beaten 6-1 by No. 2 Germany in its Olympic debut.’’
Muzongondi said they were in the Group of Death.
“We are very proud despite losing all our three matches. We were in the Group of Death and I am proud that we managed to score against the world’s best teams,” she said. “Scoring, in itself, was a great achievement. “We are very happy that we managed to qualify, something that all the African countries, except South Africa, failed to do. We will move in the streets with our heads high.
“Next time we are going to do better and I would like to say ‘Thank you Zimbabwe for all the support you gave us. Well done to our media and to all those who were sending messages via social media supporting us.
“Some teams like Ghana were beaten 0-11 by some of the countries we played against and I feel we did well. We might have lost but we are not losing focus as we got a number of lessons.
“We are now focused on the Afcon. Next time, if we qualify, I promise you that we are going to do better and we could even be the champions of Africa, who knows?”
Zifa president, Philip Chiyangwa, was among those who were at Harare International Airport for the team’s homecoming show.
He said he believes the Mighty Warriors did well.
“They performed extremely well. They played against the best teams in the world. They are the pride of Zimbabwe,” said Chiyangwa.
“They are also the pride of Africa. It was a mammoth task playing against those three teams. I am happy that they did well.”
Mighty Warriors assistant coach Sithethelelwe “Kwinji 15” Sibanda said they could have even done better if they had prepared well for the tournament.
“Our team produced a spirited performance as we played against highlyranked teams in the world. I, however, feel that we did not have enough preparations,” she said.
“We did not play international friendlies except the match we played against China and lost in Brazil. We should have played a number of friendlies where we could have tried a number of players and combinations before selecting the final team.
“I am happy that we managed to go to Brazil and we competed to the best of our abilities and we are now shifting focus to the Africa Cup.
“In most games we started slowly, conceding goals, but we ended up dominating but you can only get better with experience.”
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Olympic Committee were found wanting yesterday when they offered the Mighty Warriors a school bus to ferry them from Harare International Airport.
It was a sad sight to see members of the team struggling to load their luggage on the roof of the small bus.
Fans who had used a luxury coach to travel to the airport to welcome the team then demanded that the players get into their hired bus.