Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIFA benefactor Prophet Walter Magaya has bankrolled the entire cost of the Warriors camp this week, as they prepare for the resumption of their 2019 AFCON qualifiers, in yet another bold demonstration of his grand commitment to the success of the team.
The Warriors, who on recent occasions have been hosted at the Yadah Hotel complex, will now be housed at the Cresta Lodge in the capital, a hotel which recently underwent a $2,5 million facelift, with the football-mad prophet paying for the full cost of their stay there.
ZIFA have in the past estimated that the cost of just having the Warriors in camp for one week is, at least, $65 000 and the country’s football-controlling body have been hailing their all-weather friend for coming handy to bail them out in their time of need.
Ironically, it was about the same amount which the previous ZIFA leadership could not pay to settle the debt owed to Brazilian coach Valinhos, despite repeated warnings from FIFA, with the world football governing body eventually banning the Warriors from the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
With the Mighty Warriors also in camp this week for the COSAFA Women Championships set for South Africa, ZIFA would certainly have struggled to foot the huge cost of having their two flagship teams simultaneously preparing for key assignments.
But Magaya, who has repeatedly made it clear the success of the Warriors is more important than that of Premiership side Yadah Stars, has once again come on board to bankroll the full cost of the senior national team’s training camp this week.
The prophet will also provide the national team with transport during their time in camp, while he will also pay the full cost of their boarding at Cresta Lodge, including food, drinks and laundry.
The Warriors – ravaged by injuries to some key players – have a tough assignment against plucky Congo, who rarely lose at home, in Brazzaville this weekend as the 2019 AFCON qualifiers resume across the continent after a lengthy 15-month break.
The first matches of the group qualifiers were played in June last year, with the Warriors starting their adventure with a bang after captain Knowledge Musona became the team’s first skipper to score an AFCON qualifier hat trick in a 3-0 demolition of Liberia at the National Sports Stadium.
The second round of group matches were originally scheduled for March this year, but the CAF leadership scrapped the entire programme because they wanted to use that window for Africa’s World Cup-bound teams to play friendly matches to prepare for the global showcase in Russia.
“Since last year, when I started providing the national team with a training camp, the boys were staying at the Yadah Hotel, which even the team captain Knowledge Musona described as the best training camp he has been to during his time with the team,’’ Magaya told The Herald yesterday.
“We could have continued with that arrangement, which suited the team well, because the Yadah Hotel is a secluded place which provides just the perfect conditions for a team to focus on their national assignment without any distractions.
“However, we could not get them to stay at the Yadah Hotel this time because we have a programme that is running there and all the rooms, including those that would have been used by the players and their technical staff, have been occupied by those who are part of that programme.
“However, that hasn’t changed our commitment to help the team, something which we have been prioritising since we started this relationship with ZIFA, and I have arranged for them to stay at the Cresta Lodge, which the team management felt had the right conditions, given that it is a bit out of town, for them to have their camp there.’’
Magaya is already looking at hosting the Warriors at the newly-constructed suites at the Yadah Hotel, overlooking the stadium next month when they start preparations for the AFCON qualifier against the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The newly-built wing is specifically for sport and the prophet yesterday said construction should be completed by the end of this month.
“We have come up with a wing that caters for sport and that’s where the boys will be staying next month when they come home to start preparing for the game against the DRC,’’ he said.
“That wing will specifically cater for sport and they will realise that we have come up with designs that will suit them very well.”
Magaya said his passion for the Warriors remains as high as it was when he first rolled out the red carpet to host the team at the Yadah Hotel last year.
“It’s all about doing our little bit to try and help the national team because, as I have said repeatedly in the past, this team unites us all as Zimbabweans and it flies our national flag when it does well, it gives everyone who calls himself a Zimbabwean a reason to smile despite whatever challenges we might be going through in our personal lives,” he said.
“There is a hierarchy in our football, which is our national sport, and the Warriors are number one, there is no doubt about that because they break the barriers that divide us in terms of supporting this and that local football team and they even represent people who don’t even normally follow our local football.
“I have always said it again and again that the national team means a lot to me and, as long as I can, I will always prioritise their welfare and try as much as I can to ensure they have a conducive environment for them to be well-prepared for their assignments.’’