Proud Mighty War­riors back home

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Paul Mun­dandi

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.

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