BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
WARRIORS captain Ian Nekati has apologised for the team’s dismal performance at the African Nations Championship (Chan) finals after Zimbabwe lost all its group matches to crash out of the competition hosted by Cameroon.
Three matches, three defeats, one goal scored and five conceded at the continental event reserved for players in local leagues told a dismal story.
It was Zimbabwe’s worst performance in a record five appearances at the biennial event since its inauguration in 2009.
Nekati, who was appointed captain on the eve of the team’s departure to Cameroon, had to apologised on behalf of the team which arrived back home on Wednesday.
“I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our fans and the country for failing to give them something to cheer about especially during this difficult time. But I urge them to keep on supporting us because when we are out there, we are playing for them. We always need the support of our fans even in the next tournament,” Nekati told Standardsport in an interview.
The Chan campaign was a complete disaster due to the inactivity of the local league for more than a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic which saw up to 16 players and staff testing positive ahead of the final phase of preparations.
“Our target as a team was to get to the final of the competition but, sadly we could not achieve that. It was largely because of the preparations which I think were not adequate.
“We also lacked match fitness because of lack of game time since our league has not been played in over a year. We also had some players and coaches testing positive for Covid-19 and that affected us a lot in terms of preparations,” he said.
Regardless of the appalling results, the tournament will always be one to cherish for Chicken Inn fullback Nekati who achieved his dream of captaining the country at a major event.
Nekati, who had been the vice-captain of the team during the Chan campaign, took over the armband from veteran defender Partson Jaure.
“I was very happy to be chosen to captain my country at a big tournament such as Chan. I have always had that dream from when I was young to lead my country and I would like to thank God for giving me this opportunity. And I fully understand that leading a group of people is not an easy thing,” said Nekati.
“I was the vice-captain of the team during the qualifiers and it came to me as a surprise when I was told that I would be the captain at Chan. It can only mean that the coaches saw something good in me.
“My teammates made the job easy for me on the field of play and supported me. I will always be grateful for that and it was an honour to work with that group of players,” the 31-year old defender said.
It has been a meteoric rise for Nekati who made his Warriors debut barely a year and a half ago in this tournament.
Since then Nekati has been a permanent feature in the senior squad even when foreign-based players are included.