Justin Walley is fretting slightly over the tough preparation his Matabeleland side have had to face – but knows in the grand scheme of things this is his side’s smallest hurdle yet.
The long journey, mixed with the uncertainty of the situation until the last minute has left Walley’s charges with little recovery time ahead of their opener against heavy favourites Padania.
Speaking to Le Chic Foot d’Afrique, Walleystated “I came back a couple of days before the boys, so I’ve managed to get over most of it. Have the boys? Well, I’m not entirely sure – they’re still pretty tired.”
“I’m hoping they can sleep tonight and that they’re aren’t too anxious for the game tomorrow. Hopefully they finally got a decent meal yesterday evening.”
“They looked decent in training yesterday so I think they’ve recovered quite well. We didn’t push them too much, but still, we trained for two hours. They looked sharp – especially since they’re playing in new boots, on a new surface.”
The 3G pitches that the tournament will be played on will be a foreign experience to the Matabeleland squad, who have had to deal with many different standards of surfaces back home.
“Yesterday was the first time they had ever played on 3G. Minus, I’d say, two players, they adapted quite well.”
“The pitches vary wildly. We’ve played in 30,000 seater stadiums, which is a very good standard. In the rural areas, and especially during the summer, you play on dry pitches.”
“Our training pitches aren’t bad this time of year, but when you get on the 3G, there’s a big difference. Having the equipment also makes a big difference.”
Justin is a rare type of manager at the tournament – he doesn’t live in the same area as the majority of his players, flying from Europe every so often to oversee matches and training. This highly taxing process might sap all of his energy, but Justin assures it is equally as rewarding.
“It’s incredibly rewarding. It’s a dream come true for all of us involved that the team is here. There’s a lot of pride and happiness for me personally, knowing these boys as I do, knowing they’re here and experiencing this.”
“As a manager, it is very satisfying to face so many hurdles and be here. It’s hugely taxing – I’m exhausted.”
“And today, I don’t feel like I’ve been able to prepare at all, which is slightly worrying.”
“Hopefully we can have a positive day, and use that energy to push on and have a good tournament.”
Despite being labelled as huge underdogs, Matabeleland will not change their style of play in the face of tough opponents.
“I roughly know what my starting XI is, and we play a certain way – we’re not going to greatly change how we play. I’m not going to say too much about how we will set up, but we certainly won’t be parking the bus.