HARARE – Warriors caretaker coach Norman Mapeza and his team got off to a flying start with an impressive 3-0 crushing of Liberia’s Lone Stars yesterday to put their qualification for the 2019 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) firmly on track.
Yesterday’s win at the National Sports Stadium was a massive boost for both Mapeza and the Warriors as their campaign had been overshadowed by a row over the availability of Khama Billiat and threats of player mutiny in solidarity with players who were axed from the squad over disciplinary issues.
Billiat was caught in a country-versus-club row when Mamelodi Sundowns were reluctant to release him for assessment by the Warriors medical team following his injury which made him unavailable for yesterday’s match at the National Sports Stadium.
On the other hand, Mapeza had to justify his decision not to call Matthew Rusike, former skipper Willard Katsande, Cuthbert Malajila and Nyasha Mushekwi – who were accused of leading a boycott of a sending off dinner on the eve of their departure for Afcon finals in Gabon.
“I think after some years this was our first qualifying game playing at home and I think we took advantage of that.
“I think we have built a strong foundation going forward and the most important thing now is to be consistent, let’s try and keep this team as it is.
“But obviously I am just an assistant and maybe in the next match there will be a new coach but my advice to whoever will take the place is to keep this team and probably include one or two guys who were not available,” an ecstatic Mapeza said.
“I think it’s a good team with a mixture of experienced and young players. I think it’s good for the country.
“It was a good game. I think we were perfect in almost every department. We were compact in midfield and I think upfront we were just clinical. I can only congratulate the boys for a job well done today.
“I also want to salute that fans, they came in large numbers, they gave us maximum support. I think that’s what we needed as a team going forward,” added Mapeza.
The Warriors have no substantive coach after Zifa decided not to renew former coach’s Kalisto Pasuwa’s contract after a disastrous campaign at the Gabon finals early this year.
Mapeza is working on a part-time basis as he has a permanent job at the Zvishavane-based premiership side, FC Platinum.
Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa has said by the time the Warriors resume their Afcon campaign in March next year, they would have appointed a substantive coach.
The Warriors would resume their campaign with an away match to Congo Brazzaville in March and would be inactive in between due to World Cup qualifiers.