THE Warriors’ pathetic 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign finally took full meaning yesterday as the 30th edition of the football showcase came to life with an impressive opening ceremony and absorbing opening clash at Stade de Bate.
The colourful opening ceremony saw flags of participating teams being hoisted, confirming their status as continental football aristocrats.
There was the Zambian flag.
Yes Zambia, Chipolopolo, and the team we defeated to win the cosafa Cup in 2009 and eliminated from the 2014 African Nations Championships qualifying round.
South Africa’s flag went into the air too.
Our argument is that our southern neighbours have the money but they don’t have talent as good as ours.
Well Bafana Bafana are here.
Our so called Warriors are not.
Where are they by the way?
What does that mean?
Cape Verde, that small nation, is here too and their presence confirms the strides they have made ever since their maiden appearance on the afcon stage in 2013.
The Warriors’ absence confirms the sad tale of a football crazy nation that does not feature in the equation when serious football matters are discussed.
Debate on how low our national team has fallen might have died down following our exit in the preliminary qualification round at the hands of Tanzania as well as the subsequent jettisoning of Ian “Dibango” Gorowa.
However, the igniting of a tournament that brings together the continent’s top 16 football nations opens an old wound for the Zimbabwean delegation that is here to provide security.
A perusal of the playing quality at the disposal of the teams that are here confirms that pound for pound Zimbabwe has the talent to take us to such prestigious gatherings.
However, poor administration has dragged the game into the mud.
Our game has become a Mickey Mouse affair.
The continent knows it too.
Yesterday The Sunday Mail went through the streets of Malabo seeking to establish just how seriously Zimbabwe is regarded by the ordinary man as far as the world’s most beautiful game is concerned.
Chuspin Bojan is Gabonese and has been in this oil rich country for three years now, selling mobile phones and other wares.
He is 36 years old and knows his football well.
His English is bad but in a country where Spanish is the official language, talking to him is paradise.
“Zimbabwe no good at football,” he says when I asked if he knows about the Warriors.
You see dear reader, a serious football nation should be known, regarded and to some extent feared.
“Mwaruwari still playing?” Chuspin asks.
We all know the answer to his question.
“Oh well from Southern Africa I only know Zambia and South Africa as serious football countries. Your country no, I don’t know it in terms of football.
“I only know (President) Mugabe,” adds the briefcase businessman.
In downtown Malabo, your equivalent of the area near Magaba in Harare, the mention of one being Zimbabwean triggers a barrage of questions.
“Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe play afcon? No. Your country no good papa,” said Florent Mahamadou, an Ivorian who is in Malabo to follow the Elephants campaign in a group that features his country, Mali, Cameroon and Guinea (Conakry).
With Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea enjoying a solid relationship, the Warriors would have surely felt at home here, becoming the locals’ adopted team.
Equatorial Guineans adore Zimbabweans following Harare’s heroics in detecting and stifling a coup attempt by a group of mercenaries led by Simon Mann on March 4, 2004.
Members of the Zimbabwe Commando Anti Terrorism that are here enjoy heroic status. They get waved at, smiled at and have grown accustomed to hearing chants of “Zimbahwe, Zimbahwe” each time they patrol the streets.
Imagine a combination of the Warriors and the Zimbabwean troops that are here.
There are indications that zifa president Cuthbert Dube and chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze are in Bata attending Confederation of African football meetings.
Hopefully they will learn a thing or two.
“Those two can best tell you where Zimbabwean football is going because they are the ones administering it,” a zifa official told this publication from Harare.
“Other football associations have short to medium term plans. What is ours? Look at South Africa, Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba coached the junior teams before taking over the big one. Do we have such plans at zifa? No.
“There are too many personality clashes, mistrust and an obsession with Asiagate.”
afcon will play on until February 8 when a new champion will be crowned.
And during these coming three weeks, Zimbabwean fans will adopt teams and rally behind them solidly.
You can’t blame them.
Their team is in comatose and the organisation that is tasked with reviving it is as dead as the game we all love.
The pain of being a Zimbabwean soccer fan is unbearable at times like these.