As the only Southern African representatives in the 2017 Total African Cup of Nations tournament (AFCON 2017), Zimbabwe could prove as the African showpiece’s dark horse.
The West African country of Gabon will host this year’s AFCON, which will see 16 countries from across the African continent compete to dethrone current champions Cote d’Ivoire as the continental kings. Zimbabwe will be one of those countries in the race to win the title but will come up against stiff opposition in the likes of Tunisia, Algeria and Senegal in group B.
Though they’ll be up against formidable opposition, the Warriors of Zimbabwe boast some of Southern Africa’s finest talent in their arsenal. The likes of Khama Billiat, Tendai Ndoro and Knowledge Musona possess enough attacking threat to put fear in opposition defences’ hearts during the tournament.
The most notable of those attacking threats is Mamelodi Sundowns man Khama Billiat. Billiat has been in fine form for both club and country in the past 12 months. During his country’s AFCON qualifying stage, Billiat netted three times in four games to help the Warriors to a comfortable qualifying spot for the tournament, the first time in over a decade. Billiat’s club form has been of more notice. A Premier Soccer League (PSL), and African Champions League titles medals hang around the scrawny midfielder’s neck in the colours of Sundowns and is also the current holder of the PSL’s most coveted award, as he was named the PSL’s player of the year. But Billiat’s most notable achievement has been a nominee for the best player based in Africa award at the CAF Awards hosted in Abuja Nigeria recently but eventually losing out to club teammate and goalkeeper Denise Onyango on the night.
Though Zimbabwe boast Southern Africa’s finest talent on the playing field, their preparations off the field have been far from plain sailing. The Zimbabwean Football Association has come under fire for not paying its players match fees and rife maladministration, that has meant for training and accommodation facilities not being paid in time. The team has also had to conduct one of its training sessions at a local school facility in Zimbabwe, something that head coach Kalisto Pasuwa seemingly wasn’t been too happy about.
Reports from Zimbabwe’s local media have also suggested that some of the players from foreign based leagues have had to use money from their own pockets to sustain themselves during the preparation process.
Though the Zimbabwean Warriors’ preparations have been in turmoil, they still possess the quality and skill level out on the pitch to cause a few upsets in the tournament.
Written for The Pundits by @psixaba