Willard Katsande will lead Zimbabwe, the Warriors, at the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations to be played in Gabon from 14 January to 5 February.
We touched base with Kaizer Chiefs’ midfield kingpin ahead of the tournament.
How’s the feeling in the team ahead of the tournament’s start?
Katsande: The feeling is great because we are living a dream to play in the Africa Cup of Nations, we can’t wait to play the first match.
How’s the vibe within the Zimbabwean side after you achieved this milestone?
The nation is behind us, they believe in us. They expect us to make them happy. We will do our best.
The majority of your national team footballers play in South Africa and, for example, Knowledge Musona played in South Africa for Chiefs – how does this impact the team?
We are on the same page in terms of understanding the modern game, because we play against each other week in, week out. It makes it easy to play together because we know what to expect from one another.
What’s your goal to achieve in Gabon?
Our plan is to qualify for the knockout stage, but we will treat each game as it comes. We will focus on the here and now, which is to do well in the group stage.
How is it to be in this team of which you are also the captain?
It has been my dream to play for my country since I was a child. It’s an honour being the captain and to represent Zimbabwe at a big stage. We used to walk miles to watch Afcon matches on TV. It’s a dream come true. I remember we had no television at home and I used to walk a long distance to a friend’s house to watch Africa Cup of Nations games.
Tell us a bit about your group opponents and chances against them?
We are inspired by how Bafana Bafana handled the opponents we will be facing. We are motivated, even when we played Cameroon in a friendly last Wednesday, we showed confidence. We can match them because we play a similar style to Bafana Bafana.
And what’s the importance of winning the first match?
We need to win the first match at all cost because we want to be on the front foot which will boost our confidence for the remainder of the tournament.
There are former Kaizer Chief players in the Warriors squad for Gabon. Striker Knowledge Musona (presently at Belgium’s KV Oostende), Mathew Rusike (Tuniesia’s SC Sfaxien) and Onismor Bhasera (Supersport United).
Zimbabwe were drawn in Group B, which includes Algeria (seeded), Tunisia and Senegal.