Zimbabwe and international football: A love story with a sad ending?

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Football fans in Zimbabwe have so many memories of the national team, the Warriors, particularly of games played at the National Sports Stadium.

A pinpoint Peter Ndlovu cross from the right was met with a thumping diving header by his brother, the late Adam, against Mauritania in an Afcon qualifier. That was in 2003.

What is remembered most about that goal is Adamski’s iconic ‘machine gun’ celebration which many believed injured Energy Murambadoro, until the imposing shot-stopper shed light.

“What happened is before that game, I had gone to Gokwe and came back with Malaria symptoms. I was not feeling well prior to the game but managed to convince the coach (Sunday Chidzambwa) to play me,” Murambadoro told Soccer24 at the Afcon 2021 finals in Cameroon, 19 years after the hilarious incident.

“So when the goal was scored, I ran for the celebration but when I got there, everyone was already down. I jumped and landed awkwardly.

“I felt some pain, obviously, but that is not the reason why I was replaced at half time. We were leading comfortably so I saw no need to continue playing while not feeling well,” recalled Murambadoro.

Days before the historic 2010 FIFA World Cup kicked off in South Africa, we hosted Brazil at the National Sports Stadium—one of the most memorialized moments in the history of Zimbabwean football.

Clad in a neat yellow shirt and neck tie, Norman Mapeza walked into the National Sports Stadium aiming to lead the Warriors to what would have been an unlikely win over a star-studded Brazil.

At some point, the Warriors looked determined to pull off an upset, especially when a Knowledge Musona through ball found Ovidy Karuru, but the ‘Masvingo Mosquito’ failed to beat Júlio César at point blank range and skied his effort over the cross bar.

We knew we never going to beat Brazil, and eventually lost 0-3 but seeing our players compete with some of the best players in the world, was special.

Little did we know that 12 years after facing the Samba Boys, we would not face even minnows like Seychelles in the Cosafa Cup.

Zimbabwe is currently suspended by FIFA for what the world governing body called ‘third party interference in the running of the game’ after the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC), suspended the Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA executive.

The Gerald Mlotshwa-led commission suspended Kamambo and company for several ‘violations’, chief among them failure to account for public funds.

Since then, Zimbabwe has been in the wilderness and missed out on the Afcon 2023 qualifiers, CHAN qualifiers and missed out on the Cosafa Cup for the first time in the history of the regional showpiece.

The sports regulatory body’s roadmap has not culminated into the readmission of Zimbabwe into the international community leaving the game’s future shrouded in uncertainty.