Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE Warriors’ success story in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers has charmed a world, fascinated by the colourful names of the coaches and players, while a British envoy has joined those who are praising the team for defying the odds to secure a ticket to the Nations Cup finals in Egypt.
From their coach called Sunday, an inspirational captain called Knowledge, whose five goals were the third best tally in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers, a towering centre-back called Teenage to a flying winger called Talent, the catalogue of the names of these Warriors has caught the attention of the world.
And, it’s a pity, a horrible accident dented the chances of a good right-back called Hardlife, who was part of the team’s 2017 AFCON finals squad in Gabon, from bidding for a place in the side that defied the odds and topped their tough group to win a slot in Egypt this year.
These Warriors are led by a coach, Sunday, whose name is also generating as much interest as those of his two assistants, Brenna and Rahman, whose real name is Allan Tutani Gumbo, but has always been known as Rahman in the domestic game.
‘‘In an unbelievable collection of names on the roster, Zimbabwe subbed out the 28-year-old captain Knowledge Musona for the younger Talent Chawapiwa late in their 2-0 victory over Congo. #TalentOverKnowledge,’’ beINsports, the global network of sports channels which, recently, staged a coup by recruiting Portuguese coach, Jose Mourinho, as one of their pundits, noted in a tweet.
What, beINsports didn’t tell their readers and followers was that it’s a Warriors team that has a history of fielding stars with some colourful names like Ovidy, Shackman, Size, Friday, Mercedes, Memory and Ocean while the domestic game has also had its fair share of stars with such names.
Footballers like Have-A-Look, Danger, Limited, July, Newman, Salad, Fresh, Master, Melody and Honey, to name but just a few, have also graced the domestic Premiership in the past.
The Warriors finished top of a group that featured the DRC, provided the third best goal-scorer in the qualifiers with Knowledge Musona scoring five times, while only Senegal (16), Mali (14), Nigeria (13), Egypt (13), Uganda (13),South Africa (12), Guinea (12), Angola (12) and Mauritania (12), reaped more points than Chidzambwa’s men (11).
And, their feat has been hailed by British Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Milaine Robinson, who became the latest high-profile figure to congratulate the Warriors, with the envoy even signing off her Twitter message with the phrase, Go Warriors Go!
‘‘Congrats from the UK for (Zimbabwe) #Zimbabwe Warriors #GoWarriorsGo #AFCON2019Q (Qualifiers),’’ Robinson tweeted on Monday.
British and domestic football have had lengthy ties with a number of coaches from the United Kingdom working here while former Warriors goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar is considered one of the most successful African players to play in the English top-flight league.
Peter Ndlovu, the greatest Warrior of all-time, made history when he became the first African footballer to feature in the re-branded English Premiership on August 19, 1992, coming in as a second half substitute for Coventry City in their match against Tottenham Hotspur.
Since then, over 300 African players have featured in the English Premiership.
Ndlovu’s historic appearance came just four days after the opening matches of the English Premiership in which only 13 foreign players – Anders Limpar (Sweden), John Jensen (Denmark), Robert Warzycha (Poland), Eric Cantona (France), Ronnie Rosenthal (Israel) Michael Vonk (Dutch), Peter Schmeichel (Denmark), Andrei Kanchelskis (Russia), Gunnar Halle (Norway), Craig Forest (Norway), Ronald Nilsson (Sweden), Hans Segers (Dutch) and Jan Stejskal (Czech) – took part.
The Warriors success story was also felt in South Africa whose Super Diski provided seven of the players – George Chigova, Teenage Hadebe, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Evans Rusike, Danny Phiri, Khama Billiat and Marshall Munetsi – who started for Chidzambwa’s men in their final battle against Congo-Brazzaville.
When three other players from the South African Premiership – Talent Chawapiwa, Ovidy Karuru and Knox Mutizwa – were introduced as substitutes, it meant there were nine players from Super Diski on the field for the Warriors, with only Alec Mudimu and Tendai Darikwa the only ones not playing there.
South African Premiership side Bloemfontein Celtic, where Pfumbidzai – one of just three Warriors to score in the 2019 AFCON qualifiers with all the other goals coming from either Billiat or Musona – plies his trade, went a step further by tweeting their congratulatory message in Shona.
The Super Diski club wished the Warriors, in general, and their player Pfumbidzai, in particular, all the best at the 2019 AFCON finals in Egypt.
‘‘TOKUSHUWIRA ROMBO RAKANAKA to you (Ronald Pfumbidzai) and The Warriors as you head for Egypt. Congratulations,’’ Celtic said in a tweet.
Warriors captain, Musona, thanked the Zimbabweans for their overwhelming support.
‘‘Thank you Zimbabwe, we appreciate your support, it was a long journey but Thank God we are through.
‘‘Well done to the team. Hello EGYPT @Afcon 2019,’’ Musona tweeted.