A year after he led the Warriors to a fifth COSAFA Cup, midfielder Ovidy Karuru is relishing the opportunity of helping Zimbabwe retain the regional championship which bursts into life in Polokwane, South Africa, tomorrow. The AmaZulu midfielder has been retained in a largely new-look COSAFA squad that coach Sunday Chidzambwa has assembled for this year's competition and which will enter the tournament at the quarter-final stage on June 3.
As the Warriors got down to their first training session at the PHD Ministries complex with 15 players in attendance, Karuru, just like rest of his teammates in the senior national side, was in high spirits and revealed his excitement at the prospects of being one of the few players who could win this tournament back-to-back.
Karuru hoisted the Cup at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in Rustenburg last year as the Warriors became the first team to win five COSAFA Cup championships and this year they could stretch that record to six.
"We want to continue from where we left last year. I am sure that this year it will even be better since we have a strong squad which is using these matches to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
"That alone is a confidence-booster which will make us treat this tournament seriously.
"We want to qualify for AFCON, so this COSAFA we are not even taking it for granted. Some of the players will be playing together after a long time and the coaches would be working out combinations and everything, so it should be an exciting and challenging tournament," said Karuru.
Following his fine showing, Karuru is aware he will be one of the players to watch but the seasoned midfielder insists the Warriors are not about individuals.
"Last year I worked hard to help my team lift the trophy. I am a team player and the nation should expect fireworks from the whole team, it is not about individuals and it doesn't matter who has an outstanding performance so long we bring back the COSAFA trophy home we will be happy," Karuru said.
Newboy Alec Mudimu, the only member of the Warriors' "British Brigade" to have eventually managed to come for the COSAFA Cup after his colleagues experienced delays in securing their Zimbabwean passports, is equally upbeat ahead of his maiden dance with the Southern African flagship tournament.
Mudimu, fresh from helping his Welsh Premier League side CEFN Druids secure a place in next season's UEFA Europa League after their 1-0 triumph over Cardiff last Sunday, said he was excited at being back home with the Warriors. The 23-year-old defender made his Warriors debut during the Four-Nation Invitational tournament in Zambia in March but only linked up with his teammates in Ndola.
"It is not the first time to be with the Warriors but I must say it is nice to be with the guys again. I was saying to the coach (Sunday) Chidzambwa that being home is very nice and there is also time to get to know each other better with the guys.
"Going into the COSAFA tournament, the expectation is very high. I know what to expect after the Four-Nation in Zambia and I am positive we will have a positive outcome in South Africa. Personally the confidence is very high . . . we won 1-0 over Cardiff and managed to qualify for the Europa and it is the first the time the club has achieved that in about four years and it is something big for us as a club," Mudimu said.
The other Warriors players who were either born abroad or grew up outside the country who include Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, Bradford City defender Adam Chicksen, Leyton Orient's Macauley Bonne, Bonner SC striker Kelvin Lunga, Reading midfielder Andy Rinomhota and Oldham Athletic's Kundai Benyu have been ruled out after failing to secure local passports in time for the tournament.