Zimbabwe captain Knowledge Musona hopes football in the country will improve despite their group-stage exit at the Africa Cup of Nations.
The Warriors, who were making their fifth Nations Cup appearance, booked an early flight home despite beating Guinea 2-1 in their final Group B game in Cameroon.
“We need to develop our grassroots football, to develop from the Under-17’s, Under-20’s and Under-23’s to prepare our national team for our next assignments,” the 31-year-old forward said.
“Some of us, maybe in a few years’ time, are going to stop and we have some guys growing up and trying to maintain the level of Zimbabwean football.
“I am really optimistic that there should be something to be done for the development of the game.
After narrow defeats by Senegal and Malawi, Musona netted the opener as Zimbabwe beat Guinea to claim their first Nations Cup win since 2006.
“We are happy that we gave it our all and gave a good fight to all the opponents,” he said.
“The coach told us that we must go out there and enjoy the game because we knew already that we are out of the tournament, so we had no pressure.
“It’s also a good feeling that we ended our group matches with a win because at least we have some hope for our next games.”
However, there are clouds on the horizon in Harare regarding the running of the game in the country.
The government’s Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) suspended the board of the Zimbabwe football association (Zifa) in November, citing allegations of fraud and sexual harassment of female referees among their reasons for intervention.
World governing body Fifa had threatened a ban from international football if the SRC had not relinquished control of Zifa by SRC by 3 January, but Zimbabwe were given a stay of execution on the eve of the Nations Cup which allowed them to compete in Cameroon.
Yet Warriors coach Norman Mapeza – whose own appointment was the subject of dispute from Zifa – says he has learnt “so many lessons” in Cameroon regarding infrastructure which Zimbabwe can learn from.
“If you look at the stadiums here they are all massive,” Mapeza added.
“It shows Cameroon is developing their football and investing in their football – so that’s something I think I should take home to whoever is in charge of our football federation.”
End of the road for Musona?
Musona, who plays his club football in Saudi Arabia for Al Tai, is considering his own international future.
Midfielder Khama Billiat called time on his time with Zimbabwe last year, also at the age of 31, and Musona may not add to his 51 caps which has brought him 24 goals.
“I am still thinking about it,” he said. “When the time comes I will announce it.”
Once he does eventually hang up his boots, Musona is considering taking a role in the development of Zimbabwean football himself.
“Maybe, because I really love my country and I will do anything to help my country achieve being one of the best teams,” he said.
“We have the talent but sometimes we don’t have the resources. When the time comes I will be open to help my country to develop this sport.”
Whether or not he does get involved, Mapeza believes Musona has already made a lasting impact in the south-east African country.
“He has contributed massively to football,” he said. “You don’t have to doubt his contribution to Zimbabwean football – to me he is one of the legends of Zimbabwean football.” BBC