MAGICAL WARRIORS . . . Mhofu’s troops break new ground . . . Named among Africa’s top six sides

Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors broke new ground yesterday when the senior side were shortlisted for the Confederation of African Football’s Best Team of the Year award for 2018.

It is the first time that the Warriors have been rated so highly by CAF’s panel of experts.

Sunday Chidzambwa’s men, who stand on the threshold of qualifying for the African Cup of Nations, will contend with the quintet of Madagascar, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Mauritania and 2016 winners Uganda.

The awards ceremony will be held on January 8 next year in Senegal.

In a development that also underlines the strides that the national team has made under the guidance of the Philip Chiyangwa leadership, the Warriors have been rewarded for their gallant efforts.

Although they face stiff competition from such teams like Madagascar and Mauritania, who have already sealed qualification to the Nations Cup jamboree, the Warriors have remained on course for qualification for the continental showpiece.

Backed by a Chiyangwa administration that has been pulling all the stops in a quest to make them a success story, the Warriors got the nod following a fine run which has left them topping Group G and needing just a point from their last assignment against Congo to seal their qualification.

Chiyangwa and his colleagues — vice president Omega Sibanda and finance guru Philemon Machana — have made the Warriors a priority and also opened the doors for players born to Zimbabwean parents but living in the Diaspora to come and play of their fatherland.

Such a policy has ensured that such layers like Alec Mudimu and Tendai Darikwa have featured in the ongoing Nations Cup campaign, while efforts are still being made to bring in the likes of Kelvin Lunga, Macauley Bonne, Tristan Nydem and Kundai Benyu to play for Zimbabwe.

Through some of their all-weather partners like Prophet Walter Magaya, ZIFA have also ensured that player strikes, threats of boycotts and rebellions over poor camping facilities are confined to history. And yesterday the sum total of improved conditions and the Warriors’ work ethic under Chidzambwa yielded a place among the CAF shortlist for the continent’s best team for 2018.

Zimbabwe had a brilliant run earlier on and could have been among the first teams to seal their place at the finals with at least two games to spare, but they could not make good of the opportunity before them when they drew against DRC at home before losing away to Liberia.

It was the only time they had failed to win in the campaign. While their critics have been quick to only focus on the reverse they suffered in Monrovia, it is also a fact that few had given skipper Knowledge Musona and his troops a chance to come out of their visits to Congo in Brazzaville and DRC in Kinshasa unscathed.

Among their high points during the year, the Warriors surprised many when they went to DRC and beat the group favourites in their own backyard before coming back home where they settled for a share of the points at the National Sports Stadium.

Still they stand on the threshold of qualifying for the football jamboree with a draw or win against Congo Brazzaville at home enough to take them through.

But the Warriors would now have to await the identity of the new hosts after CAF announced yesterday their decision to withdraw the hosting rights from Cameroon.

However, Zimbabwe face a stern challenge from the duo of Madagascar and Mauritania who have so far emerged as the surprise packages of the qualifying process after sealing their places with some games to go.

ZIFA yesterday expressed their excitement on the Warriors feat.

“Congratulations to the Warriors for being nominated among six contenders for ‘Men’s National Team of the Year’ 2018 CAF Awards ceremony to be held on 8 January 2019 in Senegal,” twitted ZIFA.

Unfortunately, no Zimbabwean player made it in the individual awards nominations.

A total of 34 players (men) and 15 women were nominated for the flagship awards that include Player of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year based on the performance of the players during the year.

North and West Africa dominated the list headlined by reigning Africa Player of the Year Mohamed Salah of Egypt.

There are three Egyptians on the list, which also include Al Ahly winger Walid Soliman and Al Masry forward Ahmed Gomaa.Salah is joined by Liverpool teammates Sadio Mane and Naby Keita.

The Egyptian international could become the first Arab player to win the award back-to-back, especially after his heroic performances for Liverpool and Egypt in 2018.

The list also witnessed another five nominees playing in the English Premier League — Manchester City’s Riyad Maherz, Alex Iwobi and Aubameyang of Arsenal, Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye, Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace.

But only 12 of the 34 players on the list are based in Africa, with the likes of Abdelmoumene Djabou, Anis Badri, Ben Malango, Frank Kom, Ismail Haddad, Mahmoud Benhalib, and former Wadi Degla player Jean-Marc Makusu making the cut.

Nigeria’s Super Eagles also boast of three players on the list as Iwobi was joined by Ahmed Musa and Odion Ighalo.Super Eagles midfielder Wilfred Ndidi also made the six-man shortlist for the Young Player of the Year for the CAF Awards 2018.

Their coach Gernot Rohr was also nominated for the Coach of the Year.

The coaches list also has Herve Renard (Morocco), Aliou Cisse (Senegal) and Florent Ibenge of AS Vita and Zimbabwe’s Group G rivals in the AFCON qualifiers DRC.

For the women’s African Player of the Year, Nigeria also has Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega and Onome Ebi.

Closer home, Bafana Bafana star Percy Tau, Banyana Banyana’s Desiree Ellis, Janine van Wyk and Thembi Kgatlana, and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango made the list in their categories.

Tau, who is currently on loan to Belgian second-tier outfit Union Saint Gilloise from Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion, is in the running for the African Player of the Year prize, as is former teammate Onyango of Uganda.

Ellis has a shot at the Women’s Coach of the Year accolade, while Banyana have also been put forward for Women’s National Team of the Year honours along with this weekend’s Women’s African Nations Cup final opponents Nigeria.

Van Wyk and Kgatlana are among the contenders for the Women’s African Player of the Year gong.

According to CAF, the winners for the African Player of the Year and Women’s Player of the Year will be decided by the following:

CAF Technical & Development Committee
Media experts, legends, coaches of the quarter-finalists of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup
Coaches and captains of the national teams of the 54 member associations.
Other categories namely Youth Player of the Year, Men’s Coach of the Year, Women’s Coach of the Year, Men’s National Team of the Year and Women’s National Team of the Year will be elected by:

CAF Technical & Development Committee
Media experts, legends, coaches of the quarter-finalists of the CAF Champions League and CAF Confederation Cup
The full List of nominees

African Player of the year

Abdelmoumene Djabou (Algeria & ES Setif) 2. Ahmed Gomaa (Egypt & El Masry) 3. Ahmed Musa (Nigeria & Al-Nassr) 4. Alex Iwobi (Nigeria & Arsenal) 5. Andre Onana (Cameroon & Ajax) 6. Anis Badri (Tunisia & Esperance) 7. Ayoub El Kaabi (Morocco & Hebei China Fortune) 8. Ben Malango (DR Congo & TP Mazembe) 9. Denis Onyango (Uganda & Mamelodi Sundowns) 10. Fanev Andriatsima (Madagascar & Clermont Foot) 11. Franck Kom (Cameroon & Esperance) 12. Jacinto Muondo Dala “Gelson” (Angola & Primeiro de Agosto) 13. Hakim Ziyech (Morocco & Ajax) 14. Idrissa Gueye (Senegal & Everton) 15. Ismail Haddad (Morocco & Wydad Athletic Club) 16. Jean-Marc Makusu Mundele (DR Congo & AS Vita) 17. Kalidou Koulibaly (Senegal & Napoli) 18. Mahmoud Benhalib (Morocco & Raja Club Athletic) 19. Mehdi Benatia (Morocco & Juventus) 20. Mohamed Salah (Egypt & Liverpool) 21. Moussa Marega (Mali & Porto) 22. Naby Keita (Guinea & Liverpool) 23. Odion Ighalo (Nigeria & Changchun Yatai, Nigeria) 24. Percy Tau (South Africa & Union Saint-Gilloise) 25. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Gabon & Arsenal) 26. Riyad Mahrez (Algeria & Manchester City) 27. Sadio Mane (Senegal & Liverpool) 28. Taha Khenissi (Tunisia & Esperance) 29. Thomas Partey (Ghana & Atletico Madrid) 30. Wahbi Khazri (Tunisia & Saint-Étienne) 31. Walid Soliman (Egypt & Ahly) 32. Wilfried Zaha (Cote d’Ivoire & Crystal Palace) 33. Yacine Brahimi (Algeria & Porto) 34. Youcef Belaili (Algeria & Esperance)

Source :

The Herald

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