Victorious Mighty Warriors hailed

HARARE - Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane has said government will pull all stops to ensure the Mighty Warriors have adequate preparations for the Olympic Games and the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations finals.

Shadreck Mlauzi’s ladies, who made history last year by becoming the first national football team to qualify for the Olympic Games, added another feather to their cap by sealing a ticket to the Women’s Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon at the end of the year.

The Mighty Warriors defeated Zambia 3-2 in the second leg of their final qualifier at the Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka on Sunday to win the tie 4-2 on aggregate and become the first teams together with Equatorial Guinea to book their tickets to Cameroon. 

Speaking at a dinner ceremony to celebrate the team’s achievement upon their arrival from Zambia late yesterday afternoon, Hlongwane said: “The Mighty Warriors deserve all the recognition after qualifying for Rio 2016 Olympics against all odds and, adding to that, they have also managed to beat Zambia to secure a place at the African Women Championships.

“They are the first team other than hosts Cameroon to have qualified so far so in essence, football in terms of gender parity has exceeded our expectations.... We are hosting them to show that government is fully behind the team and will do all it can to ensure that both their campaigns (Rio and Afcon) is stress-free for our young girls.”

The Mighty Warriors have achieved all this despite facing a lot of adversity in their preparations. Players are owed over $3 500 in winning bonuses dating back to the final Olympic qualifier against Cameroon last year.

The Mighty Warriors embarked on an industrial action shortly before their first round qualifier second leg clash against Tanzania in March.

For two days, the players boycotted training and only resumed their preparations after the intervention of Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa.

Besides the large amounts of money the players are owed, the Mighty Warriors have also been treated as a second-rate squad by Zifa.

While the men’s national team is pampered and booked at five-star hotels when in camp, the Mighty Warriors have to contend with staying at the inferior Zifa Village in Mt Hampden, some 30km outside of the capital.

Sometimes the players only have to make do without proper breakfast, lunch and supper with Zifa failing to provide them decent meals deserving of elite sport teams.

Even before the team left for Lusaka on Friday afternoon, the gallant Mighty Warriors had to travel on empty stomachs but fortunately didn’t buckle up as they knew the task at hand.

Zifa supporters’ liaison officer Simeone Jamanda also challenged the corporate world to rally behind the Mighty Warriors, who have done the nation proud by their achievements.

“It seems we have now turned a corner with the girls taking the lead; we are proud of them and we really need to rally behind the team and see how best we can all come in to help them,” Jamanda said.

“We have had sponsors such as Mbada Diamonds who have promised the Warriors residential stands and a chartered plane in the past but unfortunately luck was not on the team’s side as we failed to qualify then but that is the kind of sponsorship we want for our girls and not mobile phones from a certain downtown market.

“I would like to appeal to the corporate world that without women there’s no world; these girls have put us on the map and I would like to challenge everyone to revert to the $1 for football project which will go a long way in assisting our girls.”

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