Willard Katsande announced his retirement from international football to reporters directly after Zimbabwe’s exit from the African Nations Cup finals late on Monday night.
Tunisia‚ who needed just one point to take second spot in Group B‚ comfortably beat Zimbabwe 4-2 in Libreville and Katsande’s senior teammates expressed frustration at the team’s lack of preparation for the tournament in Gabon.
The Kaizer Chiefs midfielder said it was “time to step aside and let a young generation play”.
“I’m 31 now and with the next Nations Cup two years away I think the time is right to go with my hand on my heart‚” he said.
Katsande bemoaned Zimbabwe’s concession of early goals in their last two matches (a 2-0 defeat to Senegal in their second game of the tournament and Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Tunisians) which cost them elimination after their bright start against Algeria.
They let in early goals against Senegal and Tunisia‚ losing both games and finishing bottom of Group B with a solitary point.
“At this level you have to keep it tight at the back to ensure you are still in the game as long as you can be. But if you concede inside the opening 20 minutes you are always going to be up against it.”
Teammates Danny Phiri‚ the Lamontville Golden Arrows midfielder‚ and Nyasha Mushekwi‚ the striker formerly from Mamelodi Sundowns and now playing in China‚ said poor preparations had cost them.
“If you want to compete at his level you have to play the big teams a lot more often and have much better preparations. We didn’t do it properly‚” said Phiri.
Zimbabwe had a friendly against the Ivory Coast’s B team and later one match against Cameroon en route to Gabon. But the team’s training camp was also disrupted by a strike over money.
Mushekwi said he was also considering whether to stop playing for Zimbabwe and concentrate on his club career.