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This is our home, this is our fortress, this is our theatre of dreams

Our Dear Warriors

FOR the past 21 months, you have proudly flown our national flag, fought in the jungles of Congo, refused to be swallowed by the River Congo, battled in Liberia and represented us with distinction in these 2019 AFCON qualifiers.

There have been some tough contests, like the one in Kinshasa, where you showed the world you had come of age, with that impressive victory, and there have been occasions when things didn’t go according to plan, like that day when we went down in Monrovia.

Now, after all that you have done, the highs and lows, the beauty and the beast, it all comes to tomorrow — judgment day where we either complete this mission with distinction or we lose it all, humbled in the very place we call our fortress, our beautiful home.

Everything else we have done before, doesn’t matter now, it’s a shootout – the winner takes it all and the loser stands small and, come to think of it, it’s like CAF have told us, play one home game against Congo-Brazzaville, avoid a loss and come to the 2019 AFCON finals.

This is what it has all come to and, before we start thinking it’s easy, just a formality, a walk in the park, let’s remember that, in this very month last year, our cricketers were handed a similar challenge, win their last match against minnows United Arab Emirates and get their ticket to the ICC Cricket World Cup in England this year.

We all know what happened that day, before 15 000 fans at Harare Sports Club, as the Chevrons crumbled under the weight of pressure and fell to one of their worst defeats in memory.

And, as if the sporting gods have a reminder for us about those events, the UAE cricketers are also coming here for a battle against the Chevrons.

Well, the stakes for us couldn’t be higher, we are the home team, we are expected to get the result to take us to Egypt, we are top of the table and our opponents are bottom of that table.

But, that just doesn’t tell the story of this assignment.

We know we are in for a tough examination against a team that will throw the kitchen sink at us, because they have nothing to lose, and everything to gain, while we have everything to lose.

But, we were born to be Warriors, we were meant to be here and this moment is ours, it’s yours, it’s for your coach and it’s for your country.

It’s also for those we lost in Cyclone Idai, those who are missing, those whose lives were changed forever as they lost everything they had acquired in their lives and those still asking questions and finding no one with an answer.

Well, our dear Warriors, great moments are born from great opportunities and that’s what you have before you tomorrow, that’s what you have earned, one game, one favourable result, and that’s all that matters, all that we need to be there in Egypt later this year.

These Red Devils could play you 10 times and win nine of those matches but, please, make sure the one they don’t win is this one tomorrow.

Tomorrow, we battle them, we stay with them, we hunt them down because we are Warriors and, just for 90 minutes, show the world why we believe — even when we know that’s not true — that you are the best football team in the world.

Let me remind you of something that you probably already now, the world isn’t just sunshine and rainbows, it’s actually a very mean and nasty place and, no matter how tough you are, it will test you and beat you if you let that happen.

But, when you are Warriors, getting hit is part of the game and you know that what defines us, what separates us from others , what makes us special is that we never give up and the tougher the punishment the harder we fight and the better we enjoy the spoils.

You should take some lessons from the past because, like those who failed in their test against these Congolese in 1991, on this hallowed ground, you, too, could also fail.

We know your opponents are bigger, we know they are tougher and they think, because most of them play in Europe, because their country has won this AFCON title in the past, they are better.

But, of course, there is something they don’t know, the heart you have, the spirit of Warriors that you have, the one that enabled you to avoid defeat in Brazzaville.

When you get to this level, where it’s either you do it or you die, either you swim or you sink, it’s not about talent any more, but about the heart, the spirit to refuse to be crushed, the passion to fight to the very end, the courage to confront Red Devils — together with their juju men — the belief in yourselves, the respect for the flag, that matters.

To do everything, possible, to ensure the thousands of fans who come to the giant stadium tomorrow, and the millions cheering you on from the comfort of their homes, get something to smile about at the end of this showdown.

There was a time, when many of you were mere toddlers, when a generation of Warriors set the benchmark, in terms of their never-die-spirit, the fans called them the ‘Dream Team’, your coach today, Sunday, was the assistant to a German gaffer called Reinhard Fabisch.

Back then, those Warriors would never lose at home — the Pharaohs of Egypt were beaten at the National Sports Stadium, the Indomitable Lions suffered a four-goal humiliation at the same venue, the Togolese were not even a factor at all and many came and fell there.

Even when it appeared as if the battle had been lost, when time was not on their side, and the clock showed 90 minutes, as was the case in that other match against Cameroon, those boys still believed that they would win.

And, as if on cue, a ball was delivered into the box, Agent Sawu jumped the highest and, BOOM, the ball was in the net amid scenes of delirium inside this stadium.

Now, the challenge is in your hands tomorrow and remember, most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success, they quit on the one-metre line, they give up at the last minute one kick away from winning the match.

Don’t be like those people, you are not them, you are Warriors.

In sport, you are taught that the five ‘’S’’ of sport are stamina, speed, strength, skill, and spirit but, as you have noted, the greatest is spirit and it’s something you have in abundance.

Good is not good when better is expected, and, best can be delivered.

Somewhere behind the professional footballers you have become, and all the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed, there is a little boy who fell in love with the game and never looked back.

Play for that little boy, what you were back in the years, and your country will remember you forever and, from where you have come from, you can’t stumble now — not in this place, not before such a special group of fans and not in this week when nature unleashed all its fury on us.

Source : The Herald

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