Zim carry re­gion's hopes

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ed­die Chikamhi Se­nior Sports Re­porter

AFRICA Union Sports Coun­cil Re­gion V chief ex­ec­u­tive Stan­ley Mu­toya has urged the War­riors to carry the re­gional flag with dis­tinc­tion in the Africa Cup of Na­tions tour­na­ment in Gabon where they are the sole rep­re­sen­ta­tives from South­ern Africa.

The tour­na­ment kicks off to­day and the War­riors open their cam­paign with a tough match against con­ti­nen­tal gi­ants Al­ge­ria in Franceville to­mor­row.

Mu­toya, who leads the re­gional block that com­prises ten of the 14 COSAFA mem­bers, said the War­riors have many back­ers in this tour­na­ment as they rep­re­sent the hopes of the re­gion.

“I want to wish the War­riors all the best. I know it’s a very tough group but I think they are also a very tough team. We will be be­hind them as a re­gion see­ing that they are the sole re­gional rep­re­sen­ta­tives and we are proud of that,” said Mu­toya.

The for­mer Zim­babwe Olympic chief ex­ec­u­tive how­ever was wor­ried that the num­bers of the AUSC Re­gion mem­bers at the AFCON fi­nals re­main low com­pared to their coun­ter­parts in North and West Africa.

West Africa have nine of the 16 coun- tries in Gabon while four teams are com­ing from North Africa. Uganda from East Africa and the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo from Cen­tral Africa are other par­tic­i­pants.

“I dream of a re­gion that is a ma­jor player. Our na­tional an­thems must scratch at the Olympics be­cause of be­ing played re­peat­edly for win­ning medals.

“We don’t want to go there as spec­ta­tors. We don’t want to go there as mere par­tic­i­pants. We don’t learn at the Olympic Games. I have heard peo­ple say­ing it was a learn­ing curve.

“You can­not go to the Olympics to learn, you can’t go to AFCON or world cup to learn. You go there to par­tic­i­pate, you learn at lower level. We can­not con­tinue to send teams to learn, there are other plat­forms to learn,” said Mu­toya.

War­riors coach Cal­listo Pa­suwa is aware of the enor­mity of the task.

Pa­suwa, how­ever, vowed the War­riors are in Gabon to com­pete.

What­ever hap­pens in that match to­mor­row, Zim­babwe know they have many friends back home as all the 14 COSAFA coun­tries, in­clud­ing 2014 cham­pi­ons Zam­bia, are likely to be root­ing be­hind them.

“Look­ing at it, yes we are un­der­dogs. We are play­ing an Al­ge­rian side ranked num­ber five on the con­ti­nent. We have been talk­ing to the boys, it might be the rank­ing area that Al­ge­ria are on top but if we do things right I don’t see us hav­ing prob­lems get­ting points.

“So we need to be pos­i­tive when we ap­proach this match. If we do things right I don’t see any prob­lem in hav­ing points com­ing our way,” said Pa­suwa.

Zim­babwe have been in Cameroon since Mon­day to fine-tune their prepa­ra­tions for the tour­na­ment.

Pa­suwa be­lieves the Cameroon camp helped them.

“We were try­ing to ac­cli­ma­tise so that we get some fa­mil­iari­sa­tion with the con­di­tions here. That’s the same weather that was in Cameroon al­though the tem­per­a­tures here have in­creased a lit­tle bit.

“But the boys are com­ing up hence the rea­son why the doc­tor wanted to see the quan­tity of wa­ter these boys are tak­ing,” said Pa­suwa.

“We would like to thank our sup­port­ers. They have been with us through and through and we are say­ing the boys are in the right mood.

“They are go­ing to fight hard for their na­tion. We know that our na­tion is starved of suc­cess in foot­ball and I think this time around we will go and do bet­ter.”

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