By Petros Kausiyo
Eighteen years after their World Cup qualifier at the National Sports Stadium was blighted by the death of 13 fans, Zimbabwe’s Warriors and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana are set for a showdown at the same venue for a blockbuster international friendly next month.
The high-profile Battle of the Limpopo encounter, which will mark the two teams’ preparations for the resumption of their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaigns, is scheduled for March 25.
Meetings between the Warriors and Bafana Bafana have been rare despite the proximity between the two countries with their last clash having come on September 10, 2013, when Knowledge Musona and Cuthbert Malajila grabbed second half goals for a 2-1 win in an international friendly at the Orlando Stadium.
Kaizer Chiefs striker Bernard Parker pulled one back for Bafana Bafana right at the death.
Since then the two sides have hardly met for friendlies and have somehow constantly been separated when it comes to draws for the World Cup, Nations Cup or CHAN assignments.
Their planned showdown on March 25 will only be the sixth time that the two teams who enjoy great rivalry will be facing off in a non-competitive encounter since Bafana’s readmission into the FIFA football family.
ZIFA vice-president Omega Sibanda revealed that the Warriors would end months of inactivity by plunging into action against their southern neighbours in a game that will also mark the resumption of preparations for the 2019 Nations Cup qualifiers.
The friendly game also underlines the strengthening of relations between ZIFA and the South African Football Association through their respective presidents Philip Chiyangwa and Danny Jordaan.
Sibanda said the they would also use the occasion of the Warriors, Bafana Bafana friendly to commemorate tragic day when 13 of the senior team’s fans died in a stampede at the giant stadium.
“We have said we will try and utilise the FIFA dates for friendly matches and right now we are working on the friendly that we have against South Africa on 25 march.
“We last played them in 2013 and we are also saying that match at the National Sports Stadium will be in memory of the disaster that befell us when we lost our fans who perished in the stampede.
“ZIFA and SAFA are also enjoying excellent relations and it is also common knowledge that the majority of our stars are playing in the South African Premiership,’’ Sibanda said.
Warriors gaffer Sunday Chidzambwa last night welcomed the prospects of a showdown between his side and Bafana Bafana which the veteran coach believes will provide his men with a fine test of their capacity.
Chidzambwa, given a target by ZIFA to qualify the Warriors for next year’s Nations Cup in Cameroon, predicted a lively match.
“I think South Africa are strong enough for what we need. I think it will be a very good match and they will give us a good test,’’ Chidzambwa said.
Chidzambwa said the friendly against Bafana Bafana should not just be about using those stars plying their trade in the Supa Diski.
“If resources are available I would want us to try some of the players that we have not had a chance to assess before.
“I would like to believe that there are players out there in the diaspora who may be very good but whom we have not had a chance to see and playing a team like Bafana Bafana gives us that perfect platform to test our strength,’’ Chidzambwa said.
The former Dynamos and ZPC Kariba coach said although it was a friendly match, the encounter was of great significance to both the Warriors and Bafana Bafana.
“Like us, South Africa may be out of the World Cup (2018) but they are also building for the Nations Cup and these are the kind of important matches we need,’’ Chidzambwa said.
South Africa vs Zimbabwe
— head-to-head stats
P W D L GF GA
Home 9 5 1 3 11 6
Away 3 1 0 2 4 6
Overall 12 6 1 5 15 12