MIGHTY Warriors coach Shadreck Mlauzi is disappointed with the deplorable manner in which his team has been treated and said the whole nation should take blame for the chaos facing the team’s preparations for the upcoming Africa Women Cup of Nations (Awcon) finals.
BY HENRY MHARA
With three weeks before the tournament kicks off in Cameroon, the Mighty Warriors are yet to begin camp and it appears Mlauzi has lost hope that they will regroup.
The team is expected to arrive in Yaoundé a week before the tournament begins on November 19, which effectively means they are left with just two weeks to prepare.
There are no indications that the team will utilise the few remaining days as the financially-struggling Zifa continues to battle to source funds for camp.
There are also fears that the team might fail to travel to Cameroon as they continue to face neglect from individuals, government and corporates.
Mlauzi said he was disappointed with the treatment that his team was getting despite their achievements, which include qualifying and participating at this year’s Rio Olympic Games.
“I’m disappointed with this situation we have found ourselves in. If we want to be honest with ourselves, we have let these girls down, it’s deplorable,” Mlauzi said.
“The girls have done what no other sport team in the country has done and they continue to be treated this way. I feel the nation has betrayed this team. We only have a few weeks before the start of a big tournament, but the girls are still at home, no camp, and wondering about their fate because no one is willing to come and assist to prepare for such a tournament.”
He added: “I understand things are not well economically and almost everyone is struggling, but are we saying, as a nation, we have failed to provide for this team to go into camp. We should look ourselves in the mirror as Zimbabweans. This is not right. We are quick to blame the association [Zifa], but I think this is everyone’s responsibility, from the government, the corporates and individuals. Without these institutions’ contributions, the team’s prospects are bleak.”
The Mighty Warriors have always been looked down upon, if compared to their male counterparts.
Mlauzi and his team were promised residential stands and other financial rewards for qualifying for both the Awcon and the Olympics Games, but that hasn’t been fulfilled.
In fact, they were given $5 each on their return from the Olympics, and were ferried in a rundown school bus from the airport.
“The girls have done well, against all odds. They are always ready to serve the nation with honour and pride, but their efforts are mutilated by such circumstances. They should be recognised for what they are worth and if that can happen, they have the potential to conquer the world.”
While other Awcon participants have stepped up their preparations with a number of friendly matches, the Mighty Warriors have only played a hastily-arranged friendly match against Egypt last month, which they won 2-1.
However, Mlauzi used a makeshift side after some league teams declined to release their players for national duty.
Zifa have said they are battling to get funds, while Sports and Recreation minister Makhosini Hlongwane has set up a fundraising committee to mobilise resources for the team.
Zimbabwe, who also had shoddy preparations for their Olympic Games debut in August, are in Group A together with hosts Cameroon, Egypt and neighbours South Africa.
Group B is made up of defending champions Nigeria, Ghana, Mali and Kenya. Mlauzi’s side open their account against South Africa at the Stade Ahmadou Ahidjo in Yaoundé on November 19 before facing Egypt three days later. They complete their group matches against Cameroon on November 25, with the top two teams proceeding to the semi-finals.