Sports

Kamambo targets World Cup finals

Felton Kamambo

Robson Sharuko
Senior Sports Editor
ZIFA president, Felton Kamambo, says his grand mission is to try and ensure the Warriors write their greatest success story by qualifying for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar.

The Warriors have never qualified for football’s biggest showcase, with the Dream Team coming closest, to securing qualification, when Reinhard Fabisch and his men provided the Cinderella tale of the African qualifiers for the ’94 World Cup finals.

And, Kamambo — basking in the glory of leading the Warriors to their third straight appearance at the Nations Cup finals for the first time in the team’s history — said he was even dreaming big.

The bigger picture, he said, was to try and take the Warriors to the next World Cup finals.

“I want World Cup qualification and to pass the group stages (of the Nations Cup finals),’’ Kamambo told The Herald yesterday.

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“South Africa and Ghana are not playing good football, which makes our chances very bright.’’

A Twitter account, under the name of @feltonkamambo1, has also been active in recent days, congratulating the Warriors, and appearing to speak on behalf of the ZIFA president.

“Hi, Zimbabwe, I’m a man of few words, a man who prefers to let football do the talking,’’ reads one of the tweets posted on Saturday night.

“However, tonight I can’t afford silence. The Warriors did us proud by qualifying for 2021 AFCON (finals), I would like to say congratulations, as well as thank you, to the nation.

“Together we have qualified for AFCON, for the fifth time.

“Amid the dark Covid-19 clouds, the Warriors have provided the silver lining by qualifying with a game to spare. No calculators needed, just wine glasses to toast to this latest success.

“I also believe that this golden generation can become the first Zimbabwean team to play at the Fifa World Cup. Qatar 2022 is something we can achieve if we continue to work together. Go Warriors Go!

“This latest qualification is a sign of the great things we can achieve if we all pull together in one direction and for the love of the nation. As Team Zimbabwe, we can always do more. We can agree to disagree on somethings, but not the Warriors.

“We have been at AFCON four times, in 2004, 2006, 2017 and 2019, but are yet to go beyond the group stages , that is something we all must rectify. I have told coach Loga and the boys that this is their chance to make history.’’

That history, for Kamambo, also includes the team qualifying for the 2022 World Cup finals, going one step better than the Dream Team, who came so close, yet so far, from glory.

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The Dream Team topped Group C, pushing giants Egypt into second place, after the Zimbabweans won four, and drew two, of their six group matches.

That gave them a ticket into the final qualifiers, which featured nine countries, with the Warriors finding themselves in exclusive company which featured Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria, Morocco, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon and Guinea.

They were drawn in a group that featured the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, fresh from having charmed the globe with their magical run into the quarter-finals of the ’90 World Cup in Italy.

And, an ambitious Guinea team, powered by a big forward, Titi Camara, who would soon play for Liverpool.

The Dream Team took their campaign, to the final winner-take-all match of the qualifiers, when they faced the Indomitable Lions in Yaounde, with both teams sitting on four points.

However, a 1-3 defeat in a game in which Fabisch felt so disappointed with the officiating he threw some United States dollar notes in the direction of the referees, implying they had been bribed, ended the Dream Team’s World Cup hopes.

It also marked the beginning of the end for their German coach, who was subsequently handed a one-year ban, by the Confederation of African Football, for his actions, in suggesting the referees had been compromised.

Agent Sawu, the Warriors forward, finished the qualifiers, as the second best goal-scorer, with six goals, only two goals short of the tally set by Nigerian star, Rashid Yekini.

The Dream Team also attracted attention from many parts of the world during a campaign in which they took their ’94 AFCON challenge, which they started off with a four-goal demolition of South Africa, to the final match.

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ZIMBABWEAN CONNECTION. . . A group of former Warriors met at a farm in South Africa, belonging to Zimbabwean businessman, Seth Chigogora, to celebrate the team’s qualification for the 2021 AFCON finals. Here, (back row, from left) Butler Masango, Tichaona Murewa, Alexander Maseko, Innocent Chikoya and Chigogora, while (front row, from left) Charles Yohanne, Elasto Kapowera Lungu, Ian Gorowa, Tauya Murewa and a fan only known as Jonso, pose for a group picture, amid the celebrations

“In front of a crowd of more than 40 000, Zimbabwe demolished South Africa. They went 2-0 up, thanks to goals from Vitalis ‘Digital’ Takawira and Rahman Gumbo in the opening 20 minutes and were 4-1 winners. Peter Ndlovu, still a teenager, got the other two goals,’’ wrote Ian Hawkley, in Issue Nine of the Blizzard, published in June  2013.

“The Dream Team had lift-off. David had whipped one self-styled Goliath of the continent. Over the months that followed they would aim their slingshots at genuine giants of African football as they picked their way through the cluttered calendar.

“Besides the Cup of Nations qualifiers, there was the qualifying marathon for the USA World Cup, with its two tiers of group phases, with only the top team going through at each stage.

“In the course of those, Zimbabwe would be required keep their poise on some demanding away trips — notably to Angola, in the first World Cup mini-league, on a baking January day during the Angolan civil war.

“Three weeks earlier, Egypt had been beaten in Harare, a peg on the Dream Team’s highway as significant as the resonant rout of the South Africans. Peter Ndlovu’s slalom and left-foot drive for the first goal in the 2-1 win had been the highlight.

“It set up a rousing conclusion to the group, with Zimbabwe needing a point in Cairo to go through to the next phase and eliminate the Pharaohs. By the end of an intense, rowdy night, Fabisch had a cut to his head and (Bruce) Grobbelaar had also been struck by a missile. Egypt had won  2-1.

“Zimbabwe, armed with television footage, appealed to FIFA, the world governing body’s record on righting perceived wrongs caused by lax security, particularly in Africa, is a little haphazard.

“Yet the Dream Team were awarded a replay of the match, to be played in Lyon, France. Grobbelaar had one of finest nights of his international career in a 0-0 draw that was vividly celebrated 5 000 miles away.’’

These are the kind of memories Kamambo wants to see the Warriors create once again.

HERALD