30-year-old Black Rhinos Queens midfielder, Talent Mandaza (TM), is a soldier by profession. She is the captain of the Mighty Warriors for the first time after taking over the armband from Felistas Muzongondi. She shares her 2016 African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) dream.
Grace Chirumanzu (GC): How do you feel being the Mighty Warriors captain?
Talent Mandza (TM): I was surprised by that development. Well the coach had hinted on it and said he was considering a number of people. It was not something I thought about but it came as an honour. It is always a big honour to be captain of such a team at a major tournament.
GC: Where you not intimidated by the magnitude of the competition in Rio at the Olympics?
TM: Obviously football is the same everywhere but competitions are always different and indeed the stage in Rio was huge. Playing against teams like Germany was going to send a bit of fear in us but the supporters in Rio were amazing. They supported us from start to finish even when we conceded goals. Their support made us stand our ground and realise we can actually play competitively. So in the end we enjoyed our time on the field.
GC: What are Zimbabwe’s chances in the African Championships?
TM: Our chances are very high. This is a different stage from the Olympics where there were teams like Germany that were much more superior. We are equally good against the African teams and those who will take us as underdogs will be making a mistake.
GC: How has your playing football impacted your community?
TM: I have young girls who come to me and say they are really inspired and wish to play like me. Schools have approached me in my community to visit and talk to young girls in football.
GC: What is your football dream?
TM: Well I am not dreaming too much as a player because of my age but even after retiring from playing I think I will stick around and consider a career in coaching because I just love football too much.
GC: What motivates you?
TM: The general love for football and knowing that the battle is there for us to fight no matter what.
GC: How do you feel before a big match against teams like Germany?
TM: I have realised that to be the best, we need to play against the best. So, generally playing against big teams make me smile.
GC: What can you say are the benefits of playing football for women?
TM: The major benefit is that of fitness. I always stay healthy and fit that people are surprised when I tell them my age. They say I look younger than my age.
GC: What experiences outside football do you use when you are on the field?
TM: Well, I can say I am someone who is fearless especially of hard tackles and this should be because I am a soldier. Our training leaves us fit and fearless.
‘Sportswomanship demystified’ is a series of profiles and photos by Her Zimbabwe and Sports Journalist and photographer, Grace Chirumanzu in support and solidarity for the Mighty Warriors ahead of the 2016 African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON). It celebrates Zimbabwe’s Mighty warriors as women of strength, who know no boundaries and limits. They have persisted despite all challenges they have faced, and deserve all the support they can get. Go Mighty Warriors!