It was a good year - Mlauzi

HARARE - Mighty Warriors coach Shadreck Mlauzi believes his side’s nomination for the prestigious Confederation of African Football (Caf) Women’s Team of the Year award is a sign they are in the right direction.

Zimbabwe for the second year running were listed among the nominees for the accolade together with Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa.

Mlauzi’s side were in the running for the same award last year before losing out to Cameroon, who had reached the second round of the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup in Canada.

“It’s always good to get recognition from Caf. It means a lot to the team and the nation,” Mlauzi told the Daily News.

“It’s not every day that we have a team from Zimbabwe nominated for such a prestigious award and this gives us a lot of encouragement going forward. The future of women’s football really looks bright.”

The Mighty Warriors were nominated for their performances at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where they were pitted in a tough group against Germany, Canada and Australia.

Although they failed to reach the knockout stages, Zimbabwe won many new supporters for due to their spirited and attacking displays.

The Mighty Warriors also participated at the 2016 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon last month where they were controversially knocked out of the group stages following a blatantly bad refereeing decision during a match against Egypt.

Mlauzi believes his side has done well under difficult circumstances and should get more recognition for their efforts.  

“People are not realising that there is a lot that our team is doing to lift the country’s flag high by qualifying and playing at these tournaments,” he said.

“I’m sure people will begin to appreciate everything this team is doing for the country. Being nominated for such an award two years in a row is not an easy feat.”

The winners will be announced at the Glo-Caf Awards Gala scheduled for January 5 in Abuja, Nigeria.

On the same night, Warriors star forward Khama Billiat will be in the running for the Caf Player of the Year (Based in Africa) gong.

Mlauzi is not losing sleep on whether his team will win the award.

“As coaches we are not mind who is going to win or not. To be shortlisted among the five best teams on the continent gives us a lot of satisfaction,” he said.

“There are over 50 countries affiliated to Caf and just being shortlisted gives us new determination to continue doing well.”

After failing to progress from the group stages at this year’s major tournaments, some critics have crucified the Mighty Warriors.

However, Mlauzi is not allowing those naysayers to distract him from building a team which will challenge for honours at future tournaments.

“We are definitely heading in the right direction. I know there are many people out who are really passionate about the Mighty Warriors and want to see us win these tournaments,” he said.

“However, Rome was not built in one day. It takes a lot of time to change these girls’ mentality, style of play and philosophy in order for it to match that of other teams like Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon.

“Some of the players of these team are playing in Europe and those back home are playing in a functional league which gives them an edge.

“Here were are still coming up and people need to be patient with this team and I’m sure step by step, we will start competing to win at the international stage.”

There has been no women’s national league in Zimbabwe since 2013 after the board led by Miriam Sibanda was disbanded by the Zimbabwe Football Association.

Teams have been playing in regional leagues as divisions rocked the women’s game leadership.

A new executive led by Rosemary Kanonge was voted into office last month and maybe the situation will normalise next year to give the Mighty Warriors hope for the future.       

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