My injuries nightmare is over: Muroiwa

HARARE - After an injury-hit 2016 season, centre back Elisha Muroiwa has set his sights on making the Warriors final 23-man squad for the 2017 Africa Cup on Nations (Afcon).

The 27-year-old Dynamos defender’s injury nightmare began in January when he suffered a deep cut below the left eye during Zimbabwe’s opening match against Zambia at the African Nations Championships (Chan) tournament in Rwanda back in January.

Zimbabwe lost the match 1-0 as Muroiwa was substituted at halftime due to the injury which he also aggravated when the season started in April.

In June, the former Twalumba defender then travelled with the Warriors for the Cosafa Cup in Namibia and picked up a shin injury in the first game of the tournament against Swaziland which forced him to miss the rest of the tournament.

That injury forced him to be on the sidelines for at least four months and he returned for the Glamour Boys at the end of September.

Despite his injury problems, Muroiwa was included in Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa’s provisional squad for the Afcon tournament in Gabon which starts on January 14.

Muroiwa will also travel to Abidjan with the team to face Ivory Coast in an international friendly on Boxing Day.

The hard-tackling Glamour Boys centre back is fully aware that staying fit between now and January 14 might work in his favour to make the travelling squad to Franceville, Gabon,where the Warriors will play their Group B matches against Algeria and Senegal before going to Libreville for the final group game against Tunisia. 

“I’m pretty much happy to make it into the provisional squad. The onus is now on me to work hard so that I can make it into the final 23 to Gabon,” Muroiwa told the Daily News.

“Apart from working hard, I should listen much to what the coaches want and above all to have injury-free preparations.

“It has been a difficult year for me as I was forced to watch from the sidelines because of a spat of injuries and at one point I had given up on a comeback to the national team.

“During that period when I was injured a lot was going through my mind but I couldn’t find answers and in the end I felt it was God’s will. But now that I have made it, I want to keep on working hard so that I can improve my game.”

With the Warriors, who are making a return to the Afcon tournament after a 10-year absence, pooled alongside three continental powerhouses, Muroiwa is however, not fazed by the challenge ahead.

Algeria led by the silky skills of winger Riyad Mahrez and the steel of forward Islam Slimani will be one of the favourites to go all the way to the February 5, final and even win the tournament.

Senegal also have a star-studded line-up with the likes of Sadio Mane, Cheikhou Kouyate and Moussa Sow leaving many pundits to tip the Lions of Teranga to their first Afcon title.

Although they appear to be on a decline in recent years, Tunisia will always remain dark horses when it comes to the Afcon tournament as the Carthage Eagles are searching for their second title.   

“I think our chances of progressing to the knockout stages are as good as everyone because we have got an equally good team,” Muroiwa said.

“We have some quality players especially if one looks at our foreign-based players who are playing some good football at the highest level.”

Muroiwa called for unity of purpose from across the football stakeholders while lauding the sponsorship the team received from NetOne.

The mobile phone services providers entered into an agreement worth $250 000 with the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) to be the Warriors exclusive sponsor for the duration of the tournament.

“I just want the fans to rally behind the team that will be selected,” Muroiwa said.

“The coming in of sponsorship is very much appreciated. It is a huge motivation to the players. It allows the players to concentrate on playing football without worrying of anything.”

Pasuwa has been forced to use mostly locally-based players for the game against Ivory Coast with the exception Sweden-based forward Tino Kadewere.

The rest of the European-based players will only arrive in camp in January as they still have league matches to play.

The South African Super Diski is now on a Christmas break but most of the Warriors players from there will not make it in time for the Ivory Coast match.

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