Football: Rusty Namibia end Zimbabwe unbeaten record
In-form Zimbabwe surrendered a nine-year unbeaten record in African Nations Championship (CHAN) qualifying when losing 1-0 to rusty Namibia in Windhoek Sunday.
Since debuting in qualifiers for the biennial competition, Zimbabwe had won 11 matches and drawn five with their first victims being Namibia.
But the four-time competitors in the finals now face a fight for survival at the National Sports Stadium in Harare next Sunday against rivals who have never played at the 16-nation tournament.
Hendrik Somaeb scored the only goal early in the second half at a stadium named afer Sam Nujoma, a former revolutionary and the first ruler of the southern African state.
It was a remarkable achievement by the "Brave Warriors" given that there has been virtually no top-flight football in Namibia for more than a year due to feuding officials.
The African Nations Championship -- popularly known as the CHAN -- is restricted to footballers registered with a club in their country of birth.
African football body CAF introduced the competition in 2008 to give local stars international exposure as most national squads are dominated by Europe-based players.
Coach Ricardo Mannetti warned Namibians to be "realistic" before the first leg of the second round qualifier, citing the rustiness of his squad and the strength of their opponents.
Zimbabwe won the COSAFA Cup southern Africa championship last weekend and many of the squad faced the Namibians, including final goal scorers Talent Chawapiwa and Ocean Mushure.
Chawapiwa thought he had scored during the first half in Windhoek, but the goal was disallowed.
So impressed were Zimbabwean officials with the title-winning coaches, they retained the group led by Sunday Chidzambwa for the Nations Championship qualifier.
The original plan was for Chidzambwa to step down and be replaced by another former national star, Rahman Gumbo, for the CHAN campaign.
Chidzambwa captained Zimbabwe in their first post-independence match, a 6-0 trouncing of Mozambique in a Harare friendly 37 years ago.
Zambia shrugged off losing the COSAFA Cup final to Zimbabwe by overwhelming Swaziland 4-0 at Somhlolo Stadium in Lobamba, southeast of capital Mbabane.
Clatous Chama, who did not feature in the regional tournament, bagged a brace and Brian Mwila and Fackson Kapumbu were the other scorers.
After trouncing Mozambique by three goals in the COSAFA Cup in South Africa, Madagascar had to settle for a 2-2 draw in Antananarivo when the nations clashed again.
Njiva Rakotoharimalala was the hero and villain for the Malagasys, scoring in each half before firing a last penalty kick wide at Stade Mahamasina.
Salomao Mondlane had given Mozambique an early lead and Manuel "Maninho" Fernandes equalised seven minutes after the visitors had fallen behind.
Angola look set to reach the final qualifying round during August for the 2018 tournament in Kenya after winning 1-0 in Mauritius thanks to a penalty converted by Ricardo Job Estevao.
In other region-based qualifiers, Mauritania scored in each half to triumph 2-0 away to Liberia in Paynesville and Togo were held 1-1 at home by Benin in Lome.