Despite experiencing more than a year of inactivity, Zimbabwe insists they will not be mere pushovers when arrive in Yaoundé for the Total African Nations Championships (CHAN), Cameroon 2020.
Zimbabwean players last tasted competitive football action when the country’s Premier Soccer League season ended on November 30, 2019.
There was one only match, a Champion of Champions clash between League champions FC Platinum and cup winners Highlanders in early March before all football activity was halted at the end of the same month due to a national lockdown that began on March 31.
Since then Zimbabwe’s home grown players have not seen any competitive action as the country registered a a whole year without any league match being played across all divisions on 31 December.
It is the first time in the history of the Southern African country that such a development has happened.
Yet for their new coach, Zdravko Logarusic, himself appointed in February, a month before COVID-19 struck, the expectation of the fans is that his Warrior swill still deliver.
The 54-year-old Croat who has previously guided Sudan in a CHAN tournament has much belief in the talent he has at his disposal that he thinks they will be able to shake off their Covid-19 induced rust and cause a stir in Group A.
Zimbabwe open their CHAN campaign with a clash against hosts Cameroon on January 16 before taking on Burkina Faso and winding off their group assignments with a showdown against the Eagles of Mali.
Unlike other some African countries, Zimbabwe’s league has not been able to start, leaving Logarusic a frustrated man and the Croat has had to make the most of the time he has had for preparations by first getting his local assistants to pick the squad and he followed up by making adjustments after his squad played a series of practice matches against Premiership and Division One sides.
Despite the ups and downs he has had to endure, Logarusic is confident Zimbabwe will punch above their weight and cause a stir.
“I have seen more than 40 players who have the potential to play for the national team but it’s very hard to select players who haven’t played football for nine, 10 months,” said Logarusic.
“Anyway we will try our best to see how things go. We have tried our best as the technical team to give most players in the top-flight a chance to prove themselves.
“We will certainly try our best. We need to improve in every area of the game and hopefully by the time we leave for Chan we will be in a better shape as a team.
“The players haven’t played football for eight, nine months and for sure every aspect of their game needs to be improved.
“It’s like what we have done in the past weeks has been pre-season and it’s difficult to judge which player can do well.
“Zimbabwe is full of talent and I think we will have a team to start working with. The players are breaking camp and I have urged them to try and be disciplined over this short period,’’ Logarusic told the media.
Zimbabwe have traditionally done well to qualify regularly for the CHAN tournament since the inaugural competition in Cote d’Ivoire in 2009 which was by invitation.
The Warriors also made it to the 2011 competition in Sudan where they however failed to make it beyond the group stage.
CAF then realigned the CHAN years to 2014, with the third edition being staged in Cape Town, South Africa and it was at that tournament that the Warriors then under the guidance of their former striker Ian Gorowa reached their finest hour, finishing fourth in a competition.
Two years later at the 2016 edition in Rwanda, the Warriors were also among the 16 sides but they could not progress in a group that also included Zambia and Uganda.
Now on their return to this competition reserved by CAF strictly for those players playing in the domestic leagues of their countries, Zimbabwe are seeking to shake off the rust that has come with more than a year of inactivity and possibly make their mark in Cameroon.