By Petros Kausiyo
AFTER keeping their unbeaten AFCON qualifying run intact, the Warriors have revealed they are enjoying the love they have been receiving from the Zimbabwean football family. The Warriors battled to a 1-1 draw against Congo in Brazzaville in a Group G qualifier, with Kaizer Chiefs midfielder Khama Billiat finding the target for Zimbabwe after 22 minutes before the hosts drew level in the 50th minute via forward Thievy Bifouma, who plays for MKE Ankaragücü in Turkey.
There is a general acknowledgment within the Warriors camp that the battle in Brazzaville is one they could have easily won with better precision and sufficient conviction as they had the Congolese on the ropes for much of the encounter.
But, as they returned home yesterday, the Warriors indicated they have been basking in the support they have been getting from their fans.
Wales-based defender Alec Mudimu paid tribute to the Zimbabwean fans and said the Warriors had been buoyed by the support they have received.
Mudimu, who plays for CEFN Druids in the Welsh Premier League was playing his first Nations Cup assignment for Zimbabwe, having featured for the Warriors in a Four-nation tournament in Zambia and the COSAFA Cup in Polokwane, South Africa.
“A little disappointing, really, it feels like a loss because it’s a game which we should have won, in all honesty, but then again that’s football for you,’’ said Mudimu.
“I feel we lacked a good start in the second half, but I want to thank all the supporters for fighting with us. It’s not easy to travel away, but knowing we have the love and attention back home in Zimbabwe helps so much.
“So thank you everyone. There’s always room for improvement in football, no matter who you are, no-one is perfect, but I believe it wasn’t really about me and how I played or about anyone else in the side, but it was about how we played as a team and to be away from home and get a draw in a game which we could have won, and come out with at least a point, is a step in the right direction I think.’’
Captain Knowledge Musona, who provided the assist for Billiat’s goal, had also taken to Twitter to thank the fans for the affection they are showing the Warriors.
After experiencing the conditions in Brazzaville, which he felt had not been much different from what he felt in Zambia, Mudimu, just his like his teammates, will now return to club duties in their different leagues, but they will be keeping another eye on the Warriors’ next assignment.
Sunday Chidzambwa’s men will be back on the road next month when they visit their biggest group rivals DRC in the first of back-to-back explosive encounters at Stade des Martys in Kinshasa on October 10.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said he was confident Chidzambwa’s selection will be further boosted by the expected return of such players like Marvellous Nakamba, Costa Nhamoinesu, Ovidy Karuru and Nyasha Mushekwi, who were all missing because of varying injuries.
“I have been in touch with Ovidy and he has two weeks to go before he is back. Nakamba was in Spain over the weekend for further treatment and he is now ready to resume playing.
“I also had a chat with Costa on Friday and he should be resuming full training in a week, but I understand he is recovering very well,’’ Mpandare said.
The Warriors team manager said he was optimistic of a better situation ahead of camp for the DRC game.
Injuries ravaged preparations for the Warriors’ trip to Brazzaville, with even star midfielder Billiat, who was battling a hamstring strain, being a doubt until the eve of the team’s departure.
The Warriors will also be happy to go back to their clubs knowing they have retained top spot in Group G after their nearest rivals DRC also only managed a 1-1 draw on their trip to Liberia in Monrovia. The Herald.