Tadious Manyepo and Ellina Mhlanga
EMOTIONAL Warriors yesterday dedicated their win over Congo which secured them a passage to the African Cup of Nations finals in Egypt to victims of Cyclone Idai which has so far claimed the lives of over 200 people and displaced thousands.
The Warriors wore black armbands in honour of those who perished in the natural disaster last week, especially in Manicaland.
Leading Group G, the Warriors needed just a point to progress to Egypt.
And two exquisitely taken first half goals by Khama Billiat and skipper Knowledge Musona ensured full points for the hosts before a packed National Sports Stadium.
Defender Teenage Hadebe, who never put a foot wrong in yesterday’s match, said the team did well to lessen the pain of a mourning nation.
“We are overwhelmed by the achievement. It was a tough match against the Congolese who played with much intelligence. But, we were good enough to progress.
“The campaign has not been easy. The game against Congo Brazzaville wasn’t easy either.
“But, we had the victims of the cylone (Idai) in our minds. We had to play for them,” Hadebe said.
“We wore black armbands for them and we had to honour that.
“This is a sad chapter in the country. We dedicate the qualification to their departed souls.
“This is our way to remember the deceased and our way of consoling a bereaving nation.”
Hadebe’s central defence partner Alec Mudimu echoed the same sentiments and registered his pleasure for qualifying for the Nations Cup in Zimbabwean colours.
He was however quick to challenge his teammates to up their game if the Warriors are to go beyond the group stages.
“We have qualified for the AFCON in the previous occasions and I think qualification alone may not be good enough if we do not manage to do well at the competition proper,” said Mudimu.
“We have hobbled out in the first round on all the three previous editions we have made the grade but this time, we should go beyond.
“Our objective was to qualify for the event. Now that we have done exactly that, it’s time to start preparing and see things differently. We need to grow as a country and it is only by competing rather than making up the numbers at tournaments that we can really progress,’’ Mudimu said.
Nottingham Forest defender Tendai Darikwa was also over the moon.
“I don’t know what to say, I am speechless, it’s so real you see, it’s unbelievable feeling it’s one of those best feelings I have had in my life in football.
“To go further than last time the first time, to go there and compete . . . but first of all we are going to enjoy this, enjoy the day and celebrate with all the people of Zimbabwe.
“The experience has been really good. I have really enjoyed it, all the players, all the staff, all the supporters, they are amazing people and I just want to say thank to everyone,” said Darikwa.