Mighty Warriors global appeal

HARARE - Although they heavily lost their entire group matches at the Rio Olympic Games, the Mighty Warriors definitely won many admirers.

The aggregate scoreline in the all three of the Zimbabwe national women’s football side was 15-3 but that did not stop the side from leaving an indelible mark on the Games.

Ranked 93rd in the world and playing against teams in the top 10; Germany (2), Australia (5) and Canada (10), Shadreck Mlauzi’s ladies played with passion, determination and gusto.

No one could imagine the difficulties these ladies, some of them young mothers, had made to get to the global stage.

Women’s football has remained largely an amateur sport in Zimbabwe and there has not been a national league since 2013 due to lack of sponsorship and squabbles among administrators. 

Speaking to the media before Tuesday night’s 6-1 defeat to Australia, Mighty Warriors captain Felistas Muzongondi said she was hopeful that maybe one day the women’s game would develop back home.

“We have so many difficult things. Some of the players–they have their jobs but some of the players they do not,” Muzongondi said.

“All I can say that we wish to have professional football just like the teams we are meeting here in Brazil. I hope one day we will be like them.”

During the match, midfielder Emmaculate Msipa scored Zimbabwe’s solitary goal following some impressive build-up at the stroke of full time.

Australia had raced into an early lead in the second minute through Lisa De Vanna while Clare Polkinghorne and Alanna Kennedy scored the second and third respectively in the 15th and 37th minutes.

After the break, the Matildas increased their lead in the 50th minute through Kyah Simon and Michelle Heyman’s brace in the 55th and 66th minute to put the match beyond doubt.

The fans however, particularly the Brazilians kept rallying behind the Mighty Warriors just like in the 3-1 defeat to Canada the previous match and their support did not go down in vein as Msipa went down the right flank and powered home a beauty right at the death.

Even Belgium and Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany was impressed by the character displayed by the Mighty Warriors in difficult circumstances.

“Respect to these girls. Mavis (Chirandu) and teammates, keep going. #SOSChildrensVillages #Zimbabwe #RioOlympics2016,” tweeted Kompany.

Chirandu, who scored Zimbabwe’s goal against Canada at the weekend, was dumped after birth before a Good Samaritan took her to the SOS Children’s Village in Bindura.

The 21-year-old midfielder, who is Team Zimbabwe’s youngest athlete at the Games, epitomises the never say die attitude of the whole squad.

While the Mighty Warriors have charmed the rest of the world due to their showing in Rio, the team have been treated as a second-rate squad back home by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

Former Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze even had the nerve to describe women’s football as “petty”.

The Mighty Warriors players were paid only $50 each after they had qualified for the Women’s African Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon later this year.

At that point, Zifa owed the ladies at least $3 500 in unpaid allowances and winning bonuses. 

Up until now, the Mighty Warriors are yet to receive their dues from the cash-strapped local football governing body.

The equal pay debate is not peculiar to is Zimbabwean sport alone as other countries like the United States are also facing similar challenges.

The only difference is that in other countries, the relevant authorities are moving in to address the problem.

“Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy,” US President Barrack Obama said in April during the Equal Pay Day commemorations.

“It’s the idea that whether you are a high school teacher, a business executive, or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded, whether you are a man or woman.”

However, here in Zimbabwe, the Mighty Warriors troubles are not only confined to the equal pay debate.

Most of the times, the ladies have had to camp at the Zifa Village in Mt Hampden – a venue that is not even fit enough to host refugees.

The Zifa Village was stripped off most f the immovable property which includes beds, chairs, stoves, fans and tables by creditors owed over $6 million by the association.

While based at that Mt Hampden outpost, the Mighty Warriors have to come to terms with having innutritious meals synonymous with inmates at Chikurubhi Maximum Prison.

On the other hand, the men’s national team is housed at five-star hotels while at times even the government charters planes to carry them to matches.

Warriors players even receive luxury gifts and are pampered to shopping trips in the high streets of Johannesburg and Paris by a Zifa sponsor.

The Mighty Warriors’ preparations for the Olympic Games also left a lot to be desired after they were shipped off to Bindura University where they did not even play a preparatory warm-up match against regional or international opposition.

Zimbabwe’s only meaningful warm-up match was against China last week after they had arrived in Rio.

Comments (2)

Well done Mighty warriors!. A mare qualification was a huge achievement under the circumstances. Since the collapse of the industries, our own black people would rather build a 20+ roomed mansion or hide $15 billion than investing in spot. We have wrong rich people in this country.

X-MAN IV - 12 August 2016

they tried

Dee - 17 September 2016

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