France — Based forward Tino Kadewere has said Zimbabwe are not at the AFCON tournament to add numbers as the Warriors seek to cause upsets on their fifth appearance at the tournament.
Kadewere, who celebrated his 26th birthday in camp yesterday, said the Warriors are focused on performing well in their group which has Guinea, Malawi and the continent’s top-ranked team Senegal.
The team is enjoying sound backing from the Government, through the Sports and Recreation Commission, who have committed a US$1 million budget towards the team’s participation.
The support has contributed to the serenity prevailing in the camp, as compared to the previous two AFCON finals when the team made negative headlines over money and welfare issues.
Kadewere believes the calmness has allowed them to focus on their core football business. Zimbabwe will open their campaign against Senegal on Monday at Kouekong Stadium in Bafoussam.
They will play Malawi at the same venue four days later before rounding off the group games with Guinea at the Ahmadou Ahidjo stadium in Yaounde.
Zimbabwe, who are missing almost half a dozen players at the tournament due to injuries and personal reasons, have been dismissed among the weak teams at the tournament.
Interestingly, their group is headlined by Senegal, who are being touted among the tournament favourites, and West African neighbours Guinea who also have named an intimidating squad made up of stars that play in some of Europe’s top leagues.
Kadewere told The Herald yesterday that Zimbabwe are ready for the challenge. The Olympique Lyon forward was part of the squad at the last AFCON in Egypt in 2019 but did not feature in any of the matches as Zimbabwe bowed out in the group stages.
“Every team in the competition deserves to be there,” he said yesterday.
“We are not here to add numbers. We will do everything we can to make sure we progress and go to the next round.
“I take all the past tournaments as a learning period for us. I am looking forward to getting some game time and try to make my country proud.”
However, the forward had an indifferent outing in 2021 as he was haunted by injuries. He is one of the overseas-based players that missed the preliminary training camp in Harare and only joined the team in Cameroon this week. Kadewere has been training in France ever since the French Ligue 1 embarked on a break for the festive holidays.
“We had a short program to follow during the break to keep us active. It is always a pleasure to be joining camp and also an honour. Everything looks great and everyone is in a very good mood and geared up for the tournament,” he said.
The Warriors have managed decent preparations for the tournament despite the boardroom chaos that led to the suspension of the ZIFA board by the Sports Commission.
For the first time in years, the Warriors camp has enjoyed rare peace in the run up to the tournament. The Sports Commission yesterday confirmed their commitment to see the team succeed.
“The SRC has a US$1 million budget for the Warriors campaign made up of US$800 000 and ZWL21,000,000 to finance their participation at AFCON, inclusive of appearance and match fees,” said a statement from the Sports Commission.
They also hailed the ZIFA secretariat for handling the preparations well.
“The Warriors started camp on the 23rd of December 2021 in Harare where they were in a bio-secure bubble at a local hotel.
“Thereafter, players who made it to the final Warriors squad together with the technical team and support staff left for Yaoundé Cameroon to begin their second leg of camping which was from the 29th of December 2021 and ended yesterday the 4th of January 2022.
“This evening (yesterday) the Warriors fly to the official ‘Games Village’, in Baffousam where CAF has made arrangements for their accommodation and related logistics. The Warriors were training in Yaoundé at the Presidential Guard stadium.
“The team was availed additional medical personnel who are Covid-19 specialists in view of the current operating environment by CAF. The ZIFA Secretariat advises that the camp is in high spirits.
“The SRC commends the ZIFA Secretariat for their dedication and commitment with regard to the Warriors participation at AFCON.
“The SRC continues to engage FIFA positively in updating them on developments regarding football administration in Zimbabwe,” said the Sports Commission.