Nyandoro sets sights on Afcon

Mamelodi Sundowns star wants to end international career in a high
Esrom Nyandoro gets a reprieve from the travails of Mamelodi Sundowns’ malaise this weekend as he leads Zimbabwe in their bid to qualify for the African Nations Cup, and a third possible appearance in the finals for the 32-year-old hard man.

The quiet-spoken Nyandoro was restored to the Zimbabwe side at the start of the year and has proven an inspiration for the Warriors as they have put themselves just one game away from qualifying for the first time in seven years.

“It is a great opportunity for us but it is going to be a tough game away,” he said he headed to Harare and then onto Luanda for Sunday’s final round, second leg qualifier.

“It’s no easy ride. We have to contend with the weather and Angola are such a great team with a massive stadium full to support them.

“We are looking forward to the game and we have the 3-1 lead but we were a little lucky in the first leg that they (Angola) did not play very well. For us now it is important to have the belief that we are going to play well although it’s probably a 50-50 chances,” he said candidly.

Nyandoro and Tinashe Nengomasha are on the only players still with the Zimbabwe national team who played for the country in their only other two Nations Cup finals appearances in 2004 and 2006.

AmaZulu goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini is injured but the Zimbabwe squad that heads to Angola is full of Premier Soccer League regulars, including Lincoln Zvasiya of Kaizer Chiefs and Cuthbert Malajila of Maritzburg, who were last week cleared of any involvement in the country’s Asiagate match fixing scandal and are therefore entitled to again play for the national team.

Nyandoro says qualification for Zimbabwe would be a huge fillip. “I think it can change everything,” he says. “For the past few years we have had Asiagate taking down Zimbabwe football. I’m glad that there will be less focus on that and more on the achievement of the team. It is a great opportunity to unite the nation as well.”

Sunday’s match also represents a chance for Nyandoro to continue proving a personal point. He had been rejected as too old by previous Zimbabwe national team coach Norman Mapeza but when Rahman Gumbo took over at the start of the year, he sought to get the Sundowns’ veteran back in the side.

“I was about to give up after 11 years in the national team. But I sat down with Rahman and he asked me to guide the youngsters. I agreed and I think I’ve done well with them. They seem to appreciate my presence. It is a great sense of personal pride.”