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Let’s face it, we are now minnows

When Peter Ndlovu scored a stunning winner from 45 yards against Lesotho at the National Sports Stadium on March 25 2001, the giant facility erupted with delight.

The Flying Elephant, as Ndlovu was affectionately-known, was still turning out for Sheffield United back then.

His solitary strike propelled the Warriors to a 1-0 victory over the Crocodiles in an AFCON 2002 qualifier as Zimbabwe, who had never been at the continental spectacle back then, kept their hopes of a maiden appearance very much alive.

That victory was Zimbabwe’s seventh against Lesotho in nine outings back then, figures which proved that the Warriors always survived the Crocodile attack with distinction.

But last week, Ndlovu, who has since retired and is now the Mamelodi Sundowns team manager, watched in disbelief at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg, as the Warriors’ lackluster show saw them losing to Lesotho for the first time since November 2017.

The aforementioned defeat was actually an international friendly.

Heading into last Friday’s contest, Zimbabwe and Lesotho had faced each other 25 times, with the Warriors emerging victorious on 17 occasions, while the Crocodiles won only two times, whereas five meetings ended in draws.

That is just how dominant Zimbabwe were over Lesotho, but not anymore, as evidenced what transpired last week.

Jairos Tapera’s men lost, in a World Cup qualifier, to a team which made their first ever appearance at CHAN, at the 2020 edition.

At the Warriors’ expense, Lesotho won their first ever competitive game outside Lesotho in 2024.

Even the legendary Soukous musician Kanda Bongo Man can hold a candle to some of the dance moves shown by the Lesotho players after the final whistle —scenes which somewhat summarized where we are as a football nation.

For years, the general consensus among football-loving Zimbabweans was that teams like Lesotho and Malawi were minnows but the reality is; we are now in the same bracket, or they leaped out during the time we were gradually falling into it.

How do we tell ourselves that Malawi are minnows when they beat us at the 2021 AFCON finals?

The Norman Mapeza-led Warriors squad which went to Cameroon for AFCON 2021 finals was by an enormous distance the most funded Zimbabwe team at the continental showpiece since our maiden appearance in 2004.

Regardless, they lost to the Flames of Malawi and crashed out of the tournament, to the anger of football-loving Zimbabweans.

How do we tell ourselves that Malawi are minnows when one of the best coaches in Zimbabwe —Kalisto Pasuwa, coaches there?

Better yet, Malawian football has developed, to the point that a player of amazing talent as Ronald Chitiyo, had to go for trials at a Malawian team —the Pasuwa-coached FCB Nyasa Big Bullets.

Malawians know how it feels to qualify for the knockout stages of AFCON, something we failed to do since 2004, yet we still convince ourselves —ignorantly or arrogantly, perhaps both, that they (Malawi) are minnows and we are not.

We are the actual minnows because we have not won any of our last seven home matches in all competitions.

We are now the minnows because just four years ago, we were beaten by Somalia —a team ranked 202 in the world and had been on a 19-game loosing streak stretching back to eight years.

While there can be a catalogue of excuses to either justify why we are now minnows or to deny that we are not, facts, if they are there, speak for themselves.

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