By Godknows Matarutse
After a turbulent week in which their preparations for the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) were rocked by chaos, the Warriors have now set their sights on doing well in Gabon.
The Warriors camp was first hit hard by a serious clash between the players and the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) over accommodation, with the association wanting the team to stay at the Zifa Village. The players refused to be booked at the sub-standard facility on the outskirts of Harare.
At some point, the players even suggested that they would rather go back to sleep at their homes and report for training the next day, instead of sleeping at the Zifa Village.
Kalisto Pasuwa’s side lost further valuable training time after Zifa failed to pay for the team’s training ground at the National Sports Stadium, as well as fuel to transport the squad.
Then things came to a head last Friday when the players refused to attend the team’s send-off function at Rainbow Towers, which was organised by the ministry of Sport, after an impasse with Zifa over appearance fees, winning bonuses and camping allowances.
An agreement was finally reached on Saturday, with the team eventually leaving for Cameroon on Sunday, where they will hold their training camp before leaving for Gabon on Thursday.
Each player is now scheduled to pocket $5 000 in appearance fees for every match and $400 in daily allowances, while winning bonuses per match will see them getting $6 000 each.
If the team progresses beyond the group stages, the appearance fee and winning bonuses will increase by $2 000 for every game.
To help end the impasse, the government chipped in with
$1 million, while mobile network provider NetOne released a $250 000 sponsorship package for the team.
Warriors forward Matthew Rusike admitted at the weekend that the team’s build-up to the finals, where they are in a tough Group B together with Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia, was not the best, but that they would still do their best to make Zimbabwe proud.
“Preparations have not been 100 percent to our liking. As professionals we expect certain things to be in place and we understand the situation but there is need for proper dialogue,” Rusike, who recently signed for Tunisian side Club Sportif Sfaxien, told the Daily News before the side left for Cameroon.
“We are not affected too much by the disturbances but we hope things will change and improve in the future. The coaches have done a very good job motivating the players and getting the best out of us under the circumstances,” he added.
Despite the setbacks, the former Helsingborg forward, also said he had faith in the 23-man squad which has been selected by Pasuwa to do duty in Gabon.
“Expectations for us are high but they are put on by us. We know that we have a very good team and have top quality in our squad,” the 26-year-old said.
“Guys are performing in their leagues and we have a great crop of players … We are not going there to play three games and come back. This not a tourism trip, we are going there to compete,” he added.
Warriors midfielder Marvelous Nakamba concurred with Rusike that the team was not going to Gabon just to add up numbers.
However, Nakamba will be suspended for Zimbabwe’s opening match against Algeria in Franceville on Sunday after picking up two yellow cards during the qualifiers.
“We have been working hard lately and everyone is now getting ready for the tournament to start,” Nakamba said.
“Of course, I’m very disappointed not to be part of the first match against Algeria but I believe we have a strong team of 23 players and anyone who will be given the chance to play can do the job for us.”
While the Warriors’ opponents in Group B boast of some of Africa’s best players like Riyad Mahrez, Sadio Mane and Wahbi Khazri, the Vitesse Arnhem central midfielder is unfazed by the challenge.
“I think for us to go there as underdogs is a blessing in disguise because there is less pressure against those so-called best players. This will actually afford us an opportunity to express ourselves freely and in football anything is possible,” the 22-year-old said.
“One thing for sure is that all the teams in our group will be under pressure to collect maximum points against Zimbabwe because of our lower ranking in the world and in Africa, but in tournaments like these, those things count for little.
“On the field of play it’s 11 against 11 and I believe we can go and match them.
“We have set ourselves a target of going through to the knockout stages. We only need to work hard as a team like what we have been doing during the qualifiers.
“There were not so many who gave us a chance that we would qualify for the Afcon finals but we will be in Gabon,” he said.
The Warriors will fine-tune their play ahead of the tournament with a friendly international against Cameroon this evening. Daily News