Mandaza gets Mighty Warriors armband
TALENT Mandaza has taken over as the new captain of the Mighty Warriors after she was handed the armband yesterday to lead the team ahead of the Africa Women Cup of Nations soccer finals which begins on November 19 in Cameroon.
The midfielder replaces Felistas “Figo” Muzongondi who has been captaining the ship since 2013 when her predecessor, goalkeeper Onai Chingawo, quit football following her marriage to footballer Russel Madamombe.
Chingawo has since been co-opted into the Mighty Warriors technical team as the kit assistant.
Black Rhinos defensive midfielder Mandaza will be deputised by fellow midfielder Emmaculate Msipa and defender Ruvimbo Mutyavaviri in the new set up.
The 30-year-old is a veteran of many battles and one of the most experienced players in the Zimbabwe national women’s soccer team.
She was in action in all three group matches at the Rio Olympics Games in August while Muzongondi only started in one of the two games she played there.
Mighty Warriors coach Shadreck Mlauzi said the changes were necessitated by the need to take the team to the next level.
“We need a new leadership (and) again that will take us to the next level. We have given them a year in charge of the team. The previous leadership managed two qualifications but now we need a leadership that will take us to another level of success we are craving for as a team,” said Mlauzi.
Muzongondi leaves a legacy after presiding over two qualifications thus the Olympics Games and Africa Women Cup of Nations.
During her term, she worked with two assistants Nobuhle Majika and Rudo Neshamba.
Muzongondi’s performance in the national team colours had gone down compared to the days when she was an inspirational hardworking midfielder who helped the team lift the Cosafa Women Championship at Rufaro in 2011.
Away from the dressing room changes, the Mighty Warriors entered their second day of training yesterday with the gaffer Mlauzi noticing a great improvement in their fitness levels.
“In the morning session (yesterday) we saw that sharpness coming back. We are hopeful that with more sessions, the sharpness and fitness will fully return.
“The first session was on Saturday morning then we had another one in the evening after watching the Warriors friendly match against Zambia. Of course, they looked a bit rusty and their fitness level was not what we expected.
“Their fitness levels depends with the quality of training they have been having at their respective clubs with others really struggling while some are better but overall it was much better in the morning session,” said Mlauzi.
The Mighty Warriors are having double sessions at Zesa Training Centre in Harare where they are also camped, making the most of lost time.
Yesterday, their coach Mlauzi had a full team at his disposal except for midfielder Mavis Chirandu who was excused due to work commitments.
Mlauzi will have a better evaluation of his players before the tournament starts in a game situation this Thursday when they date neighbours South Africa in an international friendly match.
The match, which initially was scheduled for Barbourfields in Bulawayo, has been moved by Zifa to Harare but remains on the same day at the National Sports Stadium.
Zimbabwe and South Africa are the only teams from the Southern African region at the Nations Cup finals and in the same group as hosts Cameroon and Egypt.
They get their group stages campaign underway in Yaoundé on the opening day of the tournament.
Two teams from each group progress to the semi-finals of the tournament which runs up to December 3. Group B has defending champions Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and tournament debutants Kenya.