BY MICHAEL KARIATI
HARLINGTON Shereni has fought and won many football battles in his career, starting off from his days at Dynamos up to his last playing days at French club, Nantes.
A member of the trailblazing Dynamos team that reached the final of the 1998 CAF Champions League and the Warriors team that went to the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals, Shereni has seen it all in football.
At the peak of his career, Shereni starred for Sports-Réunis Delémont in Switzerland before moving to France where he featured for FC Istres, Guingamp, Strasbourg and Nantes.
Locally, apart from Dynamos, Shereni also featured for their fierce rivals CAPS United in a domestic career, which had started at junior level at Hippo Valley Secondary School before moving to Harare for big-time football with Air Zimbabwe.
It is against this background that Shereni is one of the former players that are qualified to give advice to the new crop of Warriors as they embark on their journey for qualification to the 2022 Afcon and the 2022 World Cup.
Speaking ahead of Warriors’ return to international football for their back-to-back Afcon assignments against the Desert Foxes of Algeria set for November, Shereni urged local players to seize the opportunities that come from representing the nation at the highest level instead of putting all their focus on monetary rewards.
“The players should not put money issues upfront. They should concentrate on winning their games and then demand payment after the job has been done,” Shereni said in an interview with The Sports Hub.
“There are a lot of opportunities for them whenever they play for the national team. When the team plays well, it attracts a lot of attention. Football scouts and top clubs become interested. “That is the chance to get offers from big clubs and they should take advantage of it.”
He also warned the Warriors not to involve themselves in the infighting at Zifa, but to concentrate more on their prime responsibility — which is to do their best for the nation in order to win their matches.
“The fighting at Zifa was there before us. It was there during our playing days. It is there right now, and it will be there forever. It has nothing to do with the players. The players should focus their attention on their matches rather than who is running Zifa,” said Shereni.
Shereni, who hanged up his boots in 2011, says there is little for the Warriors to fear in as far as qualifying for the 2022 Afcon from a group that apart from Algeria also includes Botswana and Zambia.
He also has high hopes for the Warriors against Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa on the road to the 2022 World Cup, but is straight to the point that everything will depend on the team’s preparations.
“They say, you reap what you sow, that also applies to football. “Our preparations will determine how far we can go. Our coach is still new and he needs as many friendly matches as possible to build up a strong team,” said Shereni.
Shereni said Zimbabwe now has too many players scattered across the globe and it was only through meaningful friendly matches that national team coach Zdravko Logarušic would be able to put the disparate elements together.
Two teams from the Afcon group will qualify for the finals to be held in Cameroon in January 2022. At the moment, Zimbabwe are second on the table with four points, two behind leaders Algeria.
Botswana are on one point while Zambia are rock-bottom with no point at all. The 2022 World Cup journey is yet to begin following the break after all matches were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The now 45-year-old Shereni has followed the problems that have rocked Zimbabwean football before, during and after his playing days.
He is one of the many former footballers, who have in recent times been lobbying local football stakeholders to elect individuals that have played football at the highest level into leadership structures of the domestic game.
Such people, he adds, have an idea of what exactly is required by players when they are in camp for international engagements.
“The problem with Zimbabwean football is that most of the leaders, who are coming through have not played football at a high level. As a result, they don’t know how to treat players. Everything is on trial-and-error. We need one or two people, who played football at a higher level in the football structures,” said Shereni.
He looks back with pride at the manner he rose from a small boy from the dusty streets of Hippo Valley, who went on to play for the most popular football club in the country and later for such top clubs in France like Strasbourg and Nantes, and — more importantly — for his country.
The former Warriors defender is now attached to Chiredzi Football Club and also has a junior development programme at Gateway Primary School in Harare.
He hopes to one day use the experience he gained as a player to contribute to the Warriors’ success in the future. Shereni is married with three children, two daughters and a son.