Mandaza relives 2016 Olympics Games qualification

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Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
FOUR years ago, around this time, Zimbabwe’s Mighty Warriors were buzzing with a dream date awaiting them in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

They were among the elite athletes who had made it to the 2016 Olympic Games, as one of the two African teams.

One of the senior players in that team was Talent Mandaza, now Mighty Warriors captain.

“I still remember the referee blowing the whistle, signalling the end of the game, many players were almost in tears, struggling to come to terms with what we had achieved,’’ she said.

“Cameroon were a very strong team and I still remember that game.

“We worked very hard for that win but, I guess, God had planned it for us. Almost all the senior players were in tears, tears of joy being grateful to the Lord.

“I still remember just being numb and failing to come to terms with what had just happened.

“Then (Rutendo) Makore and (Marjory) Nyaumwe came to me telling me to believe it, we have qualified for Rio the Olympic Games.’’

However, the Mighty Warriors will not be part of the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, after they bowed out of the qualifiers in embarrassing fashion last year.

They lost 0-5 to Zambia, away from home, before they boycotted the second leg over outstanding allowances at the National Sports Stadium.

“It’s a sad feeling to not be playing there as we have experienced that feeling of being supported, full stadiums and rubbing shoulders with great players,’’ she said.

“But, at the same time, we are just grateful we once experienced that feeling of playing at that stage.

“I think the recognition of women football has taken a dip. Last year, we failed to play against Zambia and we were walked over at home.

“That was very embarrassing and a sad thing to happen to us.

“Not having adequate time to prepare for the first leg, which we lost with a big margin due to fatigue, it was so unfortunate.”

The seasoned midfielder said if other football stakeholders, including corporates, could come on board, it would help change women’s football for the better. She acknowledged efforts being made by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe to promote women’s football.

“Take for instance FUZ, they chipped in last year through player of the month awards.

“The ladies were motivated….and not forgetting the best 11 of last season, which were also rewarded by them.

“I am just hoping more people will emulate that, such that women football can be appreciated more, not just concentrate on the men, but both teams,” Mandaza said.