HARARE – Former Warriors captain Willard Katsande was close to tears as he explained his decision to quit international football upon his return from the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals yesterday.
Katsande announced his retirement shortly after Zimbabwe was knocked out of the tournament following a 4-2 defeat to Tunisia on Monday night in Libreville, Gabon.
The Kaizer Chiefs midfield enforcer, who made his Warriors debut back in 2010, felt it was the right time for him to call it a day after guiding the team to their first Afcon appearance since 2006.
Katsande fought back the tears as he spoke to reporters at the Harare International Airport.
“When the draw came out for the Afcon qualifiers in Gabon, we spoke with the guys and some of us agreed that this might be our last Afcon tournament.
“We needed to give our best in order to qualify so that when we look back, we could say we played for our national team at this tournament.
“You would tell your kids and your grandchildren that you once played at the Afcon tournament. It was crystal clear for me that this was my last tournament with the national team.
“As you know, we have great quality within this team and they are going to take the team forward.”
The 31-year-old former Highway and Gunners midfielder expressed gratitude to the support he has enjoyed since breaking into the Warriors squad.
“At the end of the day, I’m humbled by the support coming from every Zimbabwean during my time as a player and when I was the captain,” he said.
“It is a decision I took and I need to step down to pave way for young blood in order for the team to remain in the game. Whenever I’m needed in terms of advice for the team (even on) how they should play in the qualifiers, I will always be there.
“One day, I think I will be back with the national team. I don’t know maybe as a football manager or as a coach but what I definitely know is that I will be coming back to Zimbabwe football.
“To be where I am at the moment is because of Zimbabwe. If you remember I was signed to go to play in South Africa, it was through my performance with the national team.
“I still love my country and I do not have regrets on the decision I have made. It’s time for me to sit back and hang my boots from the international career.
“What I can say to all Zimbabweans is thank you very much. To my teammates I also thank you.
“The technical team; from the first coach I started with to the current coach Kalisto Pasuwa, I give them all the credit. Pasuwa helped me as a person and to become a leader. I have much respect for him.”
The Warriors coach held talks with Katsande while in Gabon but he was not able to convince the midfielder to change his decision.
“We spoke but we are still yet to finalise on my decision. I told the media that I was retiring but I also need to write a letter to Zifa informing them of my decision,” Katsande said.
“As soon as I get to the hotel, we are going to discuss and tell each other certain things but for me 90 percent of the decision is clear.
“I have played my part. If you saw me on the pitch, you would have never doubted my commitment in national colours.
“It might not have been good … but in terms of commitment, it was always there. I say thank you to the media as well. You guys have been very supportive even through thick and thin.
“It’s always hard to give up on playing for your country. I wish I could have played until I was 40 or 41 but at the end of the day there is a new generation coming.
“There are other great leaders coming, we also need another Willard Katsande to step up.
“How can they step up? By paving the way for them to come through.”