Senior Sports Editor
IN this tough job that usually strips us of our humanity, transforming us into football’s version of traffic lights, the Warriors have always been the refreshing breeze which, frees and cheers, our spirits.
The team which helps us explore our fantasies, rekindle our passion for the game as true football fans, and not the machines, which the domestic battles have transformed us into.
We rediscover ourselves, taking nostalgic trips to those days, and nights, of our teenage innocence, when we were the boys and girls, who had a romantic fling with local teams.
We regain our freedom and, through our words — both written and spoken — we find a way to indulge in our imagination, and revive our intimate love affair with this game, bias and all, without anyone pointing an accusatory finger towards us.
The Warriors help us to explore our hidden madness, including telling our constituency of readers, why we believe our boys have a fair chance of beating even a team like Brazil.
And, even if they crash to a comprehensive defeat in that game, despite our wild, and weird predictions, we still find a way to get away with it.
We become supporters and, blinded by our patriotism, driven by our optimism and propelled by our enthusiasm, we tend to develop an allergy to the power of reason, and the beauty of caution, as we get swept away by the tide of expectation.
We become the boys in the hood, we dig into the archives, to find something that we can possibly cling on, to give us hope, to provide that element of belief, some heroes from the past, who found a way to stand toe-to-toe with these opponents.
And, in the build-up to our latest confrontation with Algeria, we find ourselves turning to the heroes of Oran, on June 19, 2005, when our Warriors defied the odds to steal a point in the Desert Foxes’ backyard.
Tapuwa Kapini in goals, George Mbwando, Charles Yohane, Dumisani Mpofu and Zvenyika Makonese in defence, Esrom Nyandoro, Ronald Sibanda in midfield, Peter Ndlovu wide on the left side, Joel Luphahla wide on the right side, Benjani and Shingi Kawondera in attack.
That 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier, when Cephas Chimedza, Brian Badza and Eddie Mashiri came in as substitutes, which — with three minutes of regulation time left — was set for a victory for the hosts on a 2-1 scoreline.
But, those defiant Warriors refused to be buried and our inspirational skipper, the only elephant which could fly, found the goal which forced a share of the spoils.
Of course, it’s Shingi who provided the lasting images, his imitation of a monkey dance, after he had scored our first goal, providing a perfect response to those fools, in the stands, who had mocked him with racist monkey chants.
We revisit the Gabonese city of Franceville where, on January 15, 2017, we battled our way to within eight minutes of a sensational victory in our opening 2017 AFCON finals group match.
Riyad Mahrez fired Algeria into the lead, Kuda Mahachi drilled home the equaliser before Nyasha Mushekwi converted a penalty to push us into the lead, an advantage we defended until eight minutes from the end.
Inevitably, Mahrez scored again, and the points were shared.
That only Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat are the only survivors, from that first XI we sent into that battle in Franceville, doesn’t even seem to concern us, amid this flood of expectation.
And, that we have a coach who can be considered a greenhorn, at this level of the game, with only his experience coming from an adventure with a Sudanese side which has lost its way in international football, doesn’t also seem to concern us either.
When he speaks we all tend to just believe him.
“Firstly, what is important is that I am optimistic. If I am somebody who is scared in life I would not have been here in Zimbabwe, I would not have been here in Africa,” he said this week.
No one, among that group of football writers, and commentators who covered his media conference, dared to ask him — “What is there to be scared of in Zimbabwe or Africa?’’
The reason, those journalists had, as what usually happens during such international assignments, turned into fans.
And, he continued with his gospel.
“I want to see where we are now, we don’t know where we are, we want to see because there are always some stories like we were unlucky in AFCON, we were unlucky in, maybe this, and maybe that.
“Let’s see really where we are.”
He doesn’t know where we are, really, after 10 months here?
Maybe, that explains why he wanted to take a chance with players plying their trade in the lower leagues of the United States?
Or, why he took a chance with someone playing in Myanmar?
Maybe, that explains why Knox Mutizwa has been overlooked even though, in the last World Cup qualifier we played, it was his goal which opened a window for our sensational comeback.
Rather than question some of the strange names, in the squad, we find ourselves being blinded by our love for the team.
Our love for those gold-and-green colours, which our boys wear, on behalf of every one of the 15 plus million fans they represent in battle.
So, we retreat into our shell.
And, tell ourselves that, in the last three matches against the Desert Foxes, we haven’t lost, with all games ending in draws.
That, in the last four matches we have played against them, we have won one and drawn three.
Of course, we all want our boys to win, we can sort out our differences, regarding questionable selection and all the other stuff, later after we have picked the points.
However, it’s also important to remind ourselves, and the nation, this won’t be a stroll in the park.
And, for all our bravado, the reality is that our boys are on a mission to try and scale Mount Everest, without the aid of oxygen.
They can win tomorrow, no doubt about that, but that will require a Herculean effort and we have to be realistic, when it comes to our expectations.
But, then, it’s that time again when we all become fans and, lost in this wave of patriotism, it’s difficult to find a pocket of reason, let alone doubt, even when reality suggests otherwise.
After all, even the journalists, themselves, in these moments, become fans, too.