JOHANNESBURG: In-form Zimbabwe surrendered a nine-year unbeaten record in African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying when losing 1-0 to rusty Namibia in Windhoek on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Since debuting in qualifiers for the biennial competition, Zimbabwe had won 11 matches and drawn five with their first victims being Namibia.
But the four-time competitors in the finals now face a fight for survival at the National Sports Stadium in Harare next Sunday against rivals who have never played at the 16-nation tournament.
Hendrik Somaeb scored the only goal early in the second half at a stadium named after Sam Nujoma, a former revolutionary and the first ruler of the southern African state.
It was a remarkable achievement by the “Brave Warriors” given that there has been virtually no top-flight football in Namibia for more than a year due to feuding officials.
The African Nations Championship — popularly known as the CHAN — is restricted to footballers registered with a club in their country of birth.
African football body CAF introduced the competition in 2008 to give local stars international exposure as most national squads are dominated by Europe-based players.
Coach Ricardo Mannetti warned Namibians to be “realistic” before the first leg of the second round qualifier, citing the rustiness of his squad and the strength of their opponents.
Zimbabwe won the COSAFA Cup southern Africa championship last weekend and many of the squad faced the Namibians, including final goal scorers Talent Chawapiwa and Ocean Mushure.
Chawapiwa thought he had scored during the first half in Windhoek, but the goal was disallowed.
So impressed were Zimbabwean officials with the title-winning coaches, they retained the group led by Sunday Chidzambwa for the Nations Championship qualifier.