WITH the Warriors once again conspicuous by their absence at the African Cup of Nations when the continental soccer showcase bursts into life across the border in South Africa on January 19, the duo of former referee Felix Tangawarima and rising Caf administrator Kennedy Makambira will ensure a Zimbabwean flair will be felt at the tournament.
Just as he did last year at the Nations Cup in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the African Youth Championships finals and during his days as an active referee when handling Nations Cup and Fifa Confederations Cup matches, Tangawarima will be flying the Zimbabwean flag at this year's edition of the 16-team continental football fiesta but this time with a little help from another Warrior - Makambira.
The Warriors had appeared to have done enough to qualify for the Nations Cup after taking what seemed a comfortable 3-1 first leg lead over Angola in their final qualifier in October last year.
But coach Rahman Gumbo and his men conspired to hugely disappoint the nation when they blew that lead in just six minutes of their return leg in Luanda and eventually fell 2-0 to the Palancas Negras to bow out on the away goal's rule.
And just like in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea at the tournament where Zambia were eventually crowned African Champions, there will also will also be no local referees at the Nations Cup showcase, a development which Tangawarima yesterday revealed was worrying him.
Tangawarima who is now making final preparations before leaving next week for South Africa ahead of the start of the tournament is also saddened by the Warriors continued absence at the Nations Cup.
Since Independence in 1980, the senior team has only managed back to back appearances at the Nations cup in 2004 for their debut in Tunisia and Egypt two years later with the Warriors mustering the art of breaking Zimbabwean hearts by their continued failure to become a regular feature at the showpiece.
"I am going 10 days before the tournament starts in order to prepare the referees. I am happy that Makambira will also be there at the event even though our offices rarely interact but just to know that he will be there and doing his bit is gratifying.
"We will try to represent the country as best as we can but there is no doubt that it is so saddening that we will not be having any of our top referees there.
"It puts me under some pressure each time I have to produce and develop referees for such big tournaments because some people will be asking why referees from my own country are not there and why I am not producing some.
"But I am confident that within the next two or three years we should have some of our referees there".
Tangawarima also said he was happy to see Makambira continue to develop into a key a member of the Caf Media Division.
In fact, the Zimbabwean pair will be part of a strong 148 member delegation on Caf duty at the tournament.
Tangawarima will be part of the Referee's committee operations and as a leading Fifa and Caf instructor he and his colleagues will be running the programmes that ensure top quality work from the match officials at the tournament.
Makambira will be involved in Media operation with the specific role of being English editor on the Cafonline.com (the official CAF website and a new AFCON website to be launched this week for the 2013 South Africa final tournament).
Since he wound up an illustrious career as a referee, Tangawarima has become a regular administrative authority at Fifa and CAF events and is considered among the top instructors and is always included at tournaments like the Nations Cup.
Makambira is also a Fifa media officer who has been involved at the world football governing body's elite tournaments that include among others 2009 Fifa Confederations Cup, 2010 Fifa World Cup (both staged in South Africa) and the Fifa Under-17 World Cup 2011 held in Mexico.
It was after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that Makambira was asked by Caf to join their media department at their headquarters in Cairo and over the last two years Tangawarima and he, have become part of Caf's elite players in their respective fields of expertise.
But for Tangawarima, representing his country and the region at the Nations Cup through the referee development programme is just but one of a growing number of accolades that the Seven times Zimbabwe Referee of the year has received lately.
Only last month Tangawarima was honoured by the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa's Zone VI which conferred him with an award of excellence at a function held in Lusaka, Zambia.
Tangawarima was one of five Zimbabwean sports personalities to receive the award with the other being former Zimbabwe Olympic Committee president Tommy Sithole, former Sport and Recreation board chairman David Mutambara and top female tennis player Cara Black.
Charles Dzimba, a former official in the Ministry of Education, Sport Arts and Culture who also worked as SCSA Zone VI general manager, and swimming icon Kirsty Coventry were also honoured for their contributions to sport in Zimbabwe and the Southern African region.
Tangawarima, the first local official to work full time at Fifa was referee for 16 years and was the longest serving African referee on the elite Fifa panel by the time of his retirement in 2003.