Home » Sports » Young Warriors Moment of Truth

Kalisto Pasuwa and his Zimbabwe national Under-23 plunge into the depth of African football next week when they visit Cameroon for the All-Africa Games qualifier second round, return leg.

Zimbabwe travel to Yauonde carrying a slender 1-0 lead scrapped last Sunday at Rufaro.

This is the last hurdle on the way to Congo-Brazzaville where the All-Africa Games will be staged in September.

The Zimbabwean team expects hostile treatment, characteristic of most visits to West or North Africa.

Cameroon are likely to employ every trick in their books to intimidate the Young Warriors and Pasuwa is expecting that.

“I have been telling the boys that football is not easy in Africa,” said Pasuwa. “We have to go there ready for anything. What will be important is focusing on the mission at hand. The fact that we go there leading is likely to push Cameroon to do anything to break our spirits. I have travelled around Africa as a player and coach and know what happens.”

The ugly treatment usually begins on arrival at the airport where there would be no officials from the hosts’ federation to meet the visitors.

Being booked in a substandard hotel with poor meals and being denied access to training at the match venue are some of the common psychological warfare tactics employed in West Africa.

Cameroon are the most successful men’s football team at the All-Africa Games with four titles.

Their Under-23s are now more popular than the senior team after claiming the 2000 Olympic gold medal.

Zimbabwe have participated in the All-Africa Games twice in 1991 and 1995 with the later edition seeing them settle for bronze in Harare.

Zimbabwean football is a tale of near-misses. In 1999, the Young Warriors were 90 minutes away from qualifying for the Sydney Olympic Games. Leading Nigeria 2-1 from the first leg in Harare, Zimbabwe melted in the second half of the second leg where they succumbed in a 4-0 defeat.

Now Pasuwa’s side is just one match away from the All-Africa Games and Cameroon stand in the way. It is not the first time for Cameroon to be Zimbabwe’s last hurdle. They declined the Warriors a place at the 1994 World Cup.

Zimbabwe needed just a draw to qualify for the World Cup but lost 3-1 in a match that was marred by questionable officiating in favour of Cameroon.

“Sometimes history is the best teacher but we do not have to look much into the negative. As I said, we expect everything in Cameroon. We just have to go there with a g mentality. It is possible for us to win. We are just looking for a positive result,” said Pasuwa.

The first leg saw Pasuwa working with limited players after some clubs declined to release their players for national duty.

The likes of Walter Musona, Emmanuel Mandiranga, Kelvin Moyo, Donovan Bernard, Douglas Sibanda, Nqobizitha Masuku and Thomas Chideu were barred by their clubs from playing for the national team.

Foreign-based players like Kuda Mahachi, Macauley Bonne and Marvelous Nakamba were also not released by their respective clubs.

The physically superior Cameroonians are pushing to have their European-based players available for the second leg.

They are pressing to have 19-year-old Barcelona B goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa Ebogo who has already been capped 11 times by the Indomitable Lions and was in their Fifa World Cup squad last year.

They are also determined to secure the services of Andre Onana (18) of Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.

“It is not yet over,” said Cameroon assistant coach Emmanuel Maboang Kessack after the Harare defeat.

“We will have our foreign-based players and we want to win this match. Zimbabwe are a good side but we can win.”

After the first leg, Cameroon said Rufaro’s artificial turf was their biggest letdown.

Sensational lanky forward Atemengue Awono was monitored by Liberty Chakoroma who together with his defensive partner Teenage Hadebe were the tallest Zimbabweans on the pitch.

Douglas Sibanda, who did well in a friendly match against Morocco last year and managed to contain Marouane Chamakh, could now be needed and he would be the burliest in Pasuwa’s squad.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard