The 30th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations roars into life in the Equatorial Guinea Saturday but without the Zimbabwe Warriors.
There is a lot of excitement among Zimbabweans about the football extravaganza with most soccer fans saying they will be glued to their television sets to watch the month-long event.
The Warriors were eliminated in the preliminary rounds of the premier tournament by lowly-rated Tanzania.
The Zimbabwe Football Association disbanded the senior team after the Tanzania debacle and replaced it with the Under-23 squad.
The Young Warriors are using all senior national team assignments to prepare for the 2016 Olympic Games qualifiers.
The squad is being built as the future Warriors with the aim of qualifying for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 World Cup.
Some Zimbabweans now survive on football betting as there are no jobs to talk of in the country and the absence of the Warriors has deprived them of the opportunity to place their bets on their own team.
However, the Warriors’ fans are still looking forward to the Africa Cup of Nations finals with keen anticipation.
The Zimbabweans are hoping that one of the two southern African nations, South Africa and 2012 champions, Zambia, win the African football festival.
Former Zimbabwe Warriors goalkeepers’ coach Nkululeko Dhlamini believes that southern African teams are now a force to reckon with.
"Our southern African teams, I'm tipping them to win," said Dhlamini. "They keep on improving and can walk away with the prize."
While the decision to back the southern teams is unanimous, some though, have a soft spot for Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which they believe are also close to Zimbabwe.
Caps United supporter, Stanford Kadzviti, is supporting Zambia, saying they are a perfect representative of the Warriors at the 16-team competition.
The president of the Zimbabwe Kickboxing Association, Tony Kamangira, says he will be supporting Bafana Bafana.
"South Africa is more closer to home so I will be supporting our southern neighbours hoping they will make the region proud," said Kamangira.
While most soccer fans in this country and the region are backing their own teams, there are others who think one of the West African giants, Cameroon, Senegal, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast, will win the trophy that symbolizes continental football supremacy.
The Ivorians, who will be without Didier Drogba this time around, still have a galaxy of stars scattered all over Europe the most popular being Yaya Toure of Manchester City in England.
They have been favourites for the last four tournaments but sadly have come short losing in the finals on two occasions.
Four-time champions Ghana’s Black Stars, who have been on a roll in the run up to the finals, also have some sympathizers.
Zimbabwe light heavyweight boxing title contender Farai Mugoni says Ghana’s performance on the road to Equatorial Guinea makes them clear favourites.
Even Jivas Makoni, who claims he does not support any club in Zimbabwe but only the Warriors, echoes the same sentiments. He says he is placing his money on the Black Stars.
However, it would be folly to underestimate the overall strength and team spirit of Africa’s top-ranked team, Algeria, who performed brilliantly at the 2014 World Cup.
The other teams that are at the continental premier football event are Tunisia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, hosts Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon,
It certainly has been a long wait for the Nations Cup and now let the battle begin, unfortunately without the Warriors of Zimbabwe.