FOLLOWING a disastrous Africa Cup of Nations campaign in Gabon, the Warriors – made up of locally-based players – begin life after Kalisto Pasuwa with an international friendly date against northern neighbours, Zambia, at the National Sports Stadium today.
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Former Warriors lynchpin, Norman Mapeza, whose previous tenure as national team coach ended unceremoniously with a six-month ban on match-fixing allegations back in 2012, is back in the dugout.
And Partson Jaure, whose career had nose-dived in the recent past, has been handed the armband, a responsibility he assumed at his club, Ngezi Platinum, where he has revived his career.
The air of anticipation is sky-high.
Mapeza, who most people thought would treat the Warriors job with scorn in light of his previous experience, told Standardsport in an interview yesterday that he would never miss an opportunity to serve his country.
“There is no way I can say I cannot come and help my country. I know people will say a lot of stuff because of what happened in the past, but I decided to move on with life. People do make mistakes in life, but I don’t think I have to hold on to what happened in the past. I learnt from what happened and I move on with my life,” he said.
Mapeza said he was optimistic of completing a happy return to the national team with a positive result against Chipolopolo.
“It’s a game for the nation and the most important thing is to get a positive result. The response from the guys has been massive in the past two days and soccer-loving Zimbabwean fans must come in their numbers to give the boys moral support,” he said.
A positive result will all but guarantee the former Galatasaray midfielder a permanent job at Zifa.
With the local season yet to begin, Mapeza’s squad is dominated by players from two teams that have been active on the African safari, with Ngezi Platinum contributing five players and CAPS United four.
The biggest beneficiary was 2016 Soccer Stars runner-up and Goalkeeper of the Year, Petros Mhari, who was continuously overlooked by Pasuwa despite clamours by fans for him to be included.
Maritzburg United striker Evans Rusike, who was expected in the country yesterday, will miss today’s encounter after logistical challenges, while Orlando Pirates hitman Tendai Ndoro is also unavailable due to injury.
Meanwhile, gate charges for the friendly encounter are $2 for the rest of the ground, $5 for bay 15-18 and $10 for the VIP.