SPAIN’S best era in football is directly related to Barcelona’s golden generation. La Roja’s biggest successes were built with a Blaugrana spine and a shared idea of how to play the game.
Spain won two European Championships (2008, 2012) and a World Cup (2010) thanks to telepathic play that centred around Barcelona players.
Without Valdés, Piqué, Puyol, Inietsa, Xavi, Busquets, Pedro and David Villa chances of them lifting the world’s most coveted trophy in football were between slim and none.
The same can be said of Zimbabwe, if the Sunday Chidzambwa-coached Warriors 2019 Afcon squad are to make a mark at the 2019 Afcon Egypt finals, chances are that it would be because half a dozen of them are ex-Chicken Inn players who dominate the final 23 that has flown to Egypt.
Goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, defenders Teenage Hadebe and Divine Lunga and midfielders Kudakwashe Mahachi, Danny Phiri and Tafadzwa Kutinyu, all formerly with Gamecocks, were selected by coach Chidzambwa and his lieutenants for this Afcon dance, a second successive for this success-starved nation.
It is that Chicken Inn DNA that we seek to find out if it will positively impact on the Warriors’ fourth Afcon campaign.
Highlanders assistant coach Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu, a gaffer who happens have worked with all the six above mentioned players at Gamecocks, Bantu Rovers and Bosso reckoned:
“In any given national team, players who have played together for a long time before at club level tend to influence the national team’s system of play. They give the coach the guideline on how he should pick his final eleven or travelling squad. It is with no doubt that these six former Chicken Inn players can even influence the results in Egypt. They have all the ability to do so,” said Mpofu, who also previously worked with Hadebe, Mahachi and Kutinyu at the national Under-20 team.
Though Chipezeze will not be manning the goal posts, his presence in the squad will spur the imposing duo of George Chigova and Edmore Sibanda to be at their best.
From the Warriors line-up that faced Nigeria, it’s now crystal clear towering Hadebe will be commandeering from the heart of Warriors defence where young Lunga, nicknamed Magaya, will play as a left back.
The availability of Lunga, a roving full back who plays alongside Phiri at South Africa’s Golden Arrows, will probably see an equally gifted Ronald Pfumbidzayi play second fiddle in the process giving Chidzambwa ideal headaches on who to throw in.
Tried and tested Phiri, will probably give cover to the Warriors rearguard alongside Marvelous Nakamba, a gifted footie star, who only “fell short” of playing for either Chicken Inn and Bosso after rubbing shoulders with Mahachi and Hadebe at Bantu Rovers.
Kutinyu, who was formerly with Tanzania’s Azam FC, is another holding midfielder that Warriors followers and pundits alike can underestimate at their own peril.
No wonder, his breathtaking football skills have seen him sign for Guinea champions Horoya Athletic Club. The lanky midfielder is endowed with ball control, visionary play and ability to score crucial goals.
Mahachi, better known as Nkembe, is a midfield magician, who just like poster boy Khama Billiat has the potential to take on defenders. The former, scorer of Warriors’ first goal at the 2017 Afcon edition held in Gabon, has a psychic understanding with Nakamba and Billiat.
Nkembe’s ability to create goal scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates cannot be over emphasised.
While the nation eagerly awaits how the Chicken Inn connection will help the Warriors in Africa’s soccer extravaganza, Gamecocks club president Lifa Ncube reckons the mere presence of their former players in the national team means a lot to the 2015 league champions.
“We are happy our former players are representing the country. As a team, we will always seek to expose our boys to the world. The six players might be playing in different leagues or at different teams now, as a club we are happy that they have been chosen. While it is now not all about clubs, we are looking forward to seeing those Chicken Inn sparks punctuate Warriors games,” said Ncube.