Musona and Billiat are both products of the Aces Youth Soccer Academy in Harare and were the driving force in what is, statistically, Zimbabwe’s most successful era – with the Warriors making three consecutive Nations Cup finals appearances at the 2017, 2019 and 2021 editions.
As captain at the past two tournaments, Musona had to contend with greatly troubled campaigns.
In Egypt in 2019 persistent disputes over finances saw the Warriors finish with one point from three games.
Then earlier this year at the delayed 2021 finals in Cameroon it was difficult for the team to focus on playing as a Fifa suspension could have been served at any time – although in the end it was to come after the tournament.
“My hope, as is for many, is that those charged with the management of our beautiful game and its continuous development across all spheres work together for the greater good of our beautiful game,” said Musona in his retirement statement.
But with Zimbabwe suspended from international football, the situation is precarious.
At present there are only two Zimbabweans at high-profile European clubs – Marvelous Nakamba at Aston Villa and Tino Kadewere at Lyon – but with no national team action it will be difficult for others to attract the attention of top sides.
Musona has been an inspiration to many young players, making his Warriors debut aged 19 years in 2010, and impressing in a friendly against Brazil in Harare the same year.
He moved to Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa without having played in Zimbabwe’s top flight, and then went to Germany and Belgium.
His international career included two goals at the Nations Cup finals and a hat-trick against Liberia in an Nations Cup qualifier in 2017.
Nicknamed the ‘Smiling Assassin’ because of his gentle nature and effectiveness as a forward, Musona has done much to help carry the Warriors through troubled times.
Yet his departure looks set to only worsen the plight of the team.