My Dear Warriors,
FEAR has two meanings when every letter that makes up the word is broken down — the first one is that we ‘Forget Everything And Run.’
The other one is that we ‘Fight Everything And Rise.’
The choice that confronts us on Sunday, gentlemen, is simple — we either forget everything we have done, which has taken us this far, and run into woods and hide.
Or, like true Warriors, we stand our ground, take on the enemy, battle to the very end and celebrate the rich spoils of victory.
Of course, there is the fear of the past because history has been reminding us that, in the last 28 years, we suffered badly at the hands of these Congolese the last time they were here, on a similar AFCON mission, back in 1991.
We all know the brutality of the post-mortem that followed, the sadness those events triggered across our nation and the considerable pain it inflicted among our people.
There is also a fear of the present, the tough challenge we face on Sunday, the pressure we will endure from an expectant home crowd, our special fans who have been there for us in good and bad times, who want to see us clear this final hurdle.
And, we have these fitness concerns hanging over some of our best men.
Then, there is the fear of the future — wondering what will happen if we don’t make it, if we fail, if we blow this golden opportunity, if we come short and how will our people react?
Well, I don’t know what to say, really, just four days to the biggest home AFCON battle of our professional lives.
Everything we have fought for in this campaign will now be decided by the events on Sunday.
It’s either we explode, as a team, or we are going to crumble, inch by inch, play by play, until we are finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me, and we can stay here and get the lights kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light.
We can also choose to climb out of hell, one inch at a time.
Now, I can’t do it for you, I’m too old, I’m 67 now, and during such days I can only wish if I could turn back the hands of time to the days when, just like you, I was a player for this team.
I have to tell you, though, that I derive a lot of pride in that I was the first captain of this team, at Independence, the first coach to help us get to the AFCON finals and, in the final year of the third decade of our freedom, I have the privilege to be in charge of this side. I look around and I see all these young faces in this team today and I get this feeling of happiness that, even if I were to ease into retirement now, the future of this team is good.
When you get old in life, things get taken from you but you can only learn that when you get to my age, finding out that life is just a game of inches, just like the game of football, which has brought us here today.
Because, whether in life or football, the margin for error is very small and that is the massive challenge that confronts us on Sunday.
I mean, half a step too late, or too early, and we don’t get to make it, half-a-second too slow or too fast, and we don’t get to grab our chance.
The inches we need are everywhere around us, in this room, outside this room, and on that field on Sunday and they will be in every break of the game, every minute and every second that we will play.
In this team, we fight for that inch, in this team we tear ourselves, and everyone around us, to pieces just to try and ensure we fight, and get, that inch we are looking for.
We claw our finger nails for that inch, we slide for that inch and we tackle for that inch because we know that when we add up all those inches, that’s what is going to make the difference between WINNING and LOSING, between LIVING and DYING between heroes and zeroes.
I’ll tell you this, in any fight, it is the guy who is willing to die, who is going to win that inch, and I know if I am going to have any life anymore it is because I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch because that is what LIVING is — the inches that make the size of the football pitch.
Now I can’t make you do it, you have got to look at the guy next to you, look into his eyes and I want you to see a guy who will go that inch with you, a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you will also do the same thing for him.
That’s what makes a team, gentlemen, that’s what defines Warriors, and it’s either we unite now, as a team, or we will die on Sunday as individuals unwanted even by their fans.
That’s football guys, that’s all it is, and it’s all about us now, for our loyal fans, for our country and for all those we lost in Cyclone Idai.
We can’t retreat now, we can’t surrender, and we can’t let these good people down.
Remember, on any given Sunday, we have to know we are Warriors.
Yours In Football,
This fictional motivational letter from Sunday Chidzambwa to his Warriors was written by our Senior Sports Editor, ROBSON SHARUKO, using words borrowed from an address made by actor Al Pacino, in his role as Tony D’Amato, in the American football movie, ‘Any Given Sunday,’ the coach of the Miami Sharks, to his players, before a crucial championship game.