THE Democratic Republic of Congo have qualified for the 2016 Africa Cup of Nations finals after winning in their group in style by picking up 15 points from a maximum of 18.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
They are the closest neighbours Zimbabwe have got at the Africa Cup of Nations, as all the other southern African football powerhouses failed to make it to the continental football festival.
There are similarities between the DRC national soccer team and the Warriors in that both teams qualified by virtue of topping their groups and with a game still to play.
The DRC picked up a maximum of 15 points after losing only one of their six matches, while the Warriors picked up 11 points after losing one and drawing two of their games.
However, there are a lot of other things the Warriors and Zimbabwean football as a whole must emulate and learn from the Congolese.
The Congolese have two Africa Cup of Nations titles won in 1968 and 1974, inspired by a World Cup darling, Ndaye Mulamba.
DRC clubs have won Pan-African titles, while the best Zimbabwean clubs have done is Dynamos’ berth in the 1998 Caf Champions League final.
For the record, TP Mazembe won the Caf Champions League in 1967, 1968, 2009 and 2010, while bitter rivals AS Vita were winners in 1973.
The DRC also won the 2016 Africa Nations Championships (Chan) — a tournament for players who ply their trade in their home countries.
The DRC team that also qualified for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations Cup was made up of players from local clubs, meaning the DRC team is made up of home-grown talent.
This is evidence of the quality of players and the high standard of football there is in that country.
The success of the DRC clubs on the international front also reflects the level of football administration there is in Kinshasa.
On the other hand, Zimbabwean clubs have since 2010 failed to reach the first round of the Caf Champions League or the Caf Confederation Cup.
The Warriors have failed to go past the group stages of the Africa Cup of Nations and the Africa Nations Championships, the latest being the 2016 Chan finals where they picked up only one point from three matches.
Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from the DRC and the first step would be to stage international friendly matches. The DRC can be convinced to pay their travelling expenses to Rufaro Stadium, and probably play host to the cash-strapped Warriors in a two-legged tie.
What is required is for the Zimbabwe Football Association to engage the Democratic Republic of Congo football controlling body with regards to the two international friendly matches before the Nations Cup kicks off. It would not matter if the Warriors and the DRC are drawn in the same group at the Nations Cup finals.
What is important is for the Warriors to benefit from the friendly matches as well as the DRC’s organisational abilities.
The DRC are our closest friends right now.
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