THE Warriors match on Wednesday -- besides introducing a new brand of football for the national flagbearers -- heralded the arrival of a talented young player, Nicholas Guyo. A year ago, Guyo was playing for Maningi Football Club Academy in the High Glen District Soccer League, and his inclusion in the national team is a positive step for talent identification in the country, as the Warriors' German coach Klaus Dieter-Pagels casts his net wide.
The 18-year-old Guyo, playing his first big match after having been used to playing in the amateur league where age-group teams clash, had a few poor touches before settling in the youthful side in Wednesday's match against Botswana at Rufaro.
But for the leftback, who comes from a football ground and is following in the footsteps of his brothers -- former Young Warriors striker David (late) and George, who is now based in the United Kingdom, football is the same and he found himself rubbing shoulders with more established players such as Knowledge Musona and Archieford Gutu.
"I just didn't expect to be called into the national team squad . . . When I got into the camp, I just couldn't believe that I was rubbing shoulders with the players that I have always heard about.
"But when the training sessions started, I felt the same as football language is the same.
"But when I came in the second half I initially panicked. I haven't even played in the Premiership. At High Glen, we just play Under-20 sides from teams such as Dynamos, Derbyshire and Arsenal. But the coaches assured me that I am good," said Guyo.
The young defender was spotted by Warriors coach Pagels during trials at Monomotapa where he finally made the grade and little did he know that weeks later he would get his first call up to the national squad.
The player hopes this year bigger things are in store for him and is already looking forward to a positive year and a good Premiership debut after his performance at Rufaro this week.
"I am looking forward to playing at Monomotapa and if I continue working hard, I would be called again to the national team.
"The coach said the door is still open but I have to work hard. I think I would be able to play in the first team and I am confident that if I managed to play in the national team, I can settle well in the Premiership.
"In the lower leagues I was playing, the talent is there but most of the times we never get the chance to be seen by the big coaches."
The former Kambuzuma High 1 pupil last year joined Maningi, an ambitious football project which is run by Gladman Dimbiri, who is based in the UK.
While going to school Guyo used to play for Guyo Stars, a team which was run by his brothers.
Maningi is operated as an Academy for players from the Under-12 age-group up to the Under-20s and offers gifted players scholarships to go and study in colleges and universities in the United States.
The Academy, which was formed in 2007, has managed to send 15 students to universities in the United States as they invite American coaches here to assess their players.
Among the high-profile players they have sent to US on a scholarships is Tinotenda Chibharo, who is now playing for Manchester City Under-21 side and has since dropped from university and moved to England.
Brian Gwanzura, the son of late David Gwanzura, is at Radford University while Samson Nyamunda and Calvin Mangunda are at Southern Poly University.
Anthony Matekenya is at Bethel University, Martin Sibanda is at Virginia University and Courage Chirandu was enrolled at Illinois College.
Fortune Sibanda, Jonty Chimbera and Ezra Zigarwe are at North Cross High School.
Paul Gibbons, a scout who has contacts with clubs such as Wes Brom, West Ham and clubs in Canada, is currently in the country at the invitation of Maningi and has been assessing the academy's players as they play against teams such as Aces Academy and Hwange Under-19.
Yesterday Maningi director Dimbiri said this year about five players would be leaving the country in August after getting scholarships.
"I normally invite US coaches here to identify talent and the bright ones get scholarships.
"My role is to facilitate the academic-gifted players to get scholarships at a college if they have passed their O-Levels or at a university if they have done well at A-Levels.
"The Academy started in 2007 and it was more of rural talent identification in Zaka and Masvingo with bias on Under-19 players.
"We joined the Division Two league the same year to have exposure and then Division One and the players did well given that the kids were young but competing against older players.
"We then sold the franchise and moved to Glen View where we started with the Under-12s up to Under-18s.
"We did well and finished top in all the age-groups and most of our players have made it into the district select.
"I have been using personal funds to run the team and am still lobbying for promotional partners. We pay school fees for the most disadvantaged kids and orphans and the rest they cater for themselves," said Dimbiri.
And the sight of seeing young local players getting recognition from the national team coaches is refreshing as it motivates players, knowing fully well that if they are good, they would be duly rewarded without necessarily having played in the local leagues.