Inside sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
THE guessing game over who is in the Warriors squad for the March 24 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Red Devils of Congo is over after coach Sunday Chidzambga finally made public his long-awaited team for the job at hand.
This brought to an end the confusion that was reigning supreme among the true Zimbabwean football fans who were being fed — from social media — of too many different Zimbabwe national teams all purported to have been selected and announced by Chidzambga.
Although there were some cases in which some of the “teams” were nearly spot on with Chidzambga’s final selection, some of the so-called Warriors squads were outrageous, to say, the least.
Even Mhofu himself was shocked by the level of exaggeration and revealed that the speculation did not only get into the talks they were having with the players and their clubs, but also went as far as including players he had never dreamt of calling into his team.
Ironically — in most of the “so, called” Warriors teams — there was the name of Leyton Orient’s Macauley Bonne, who, after all, was not being considered as he had not yet presented his papers for application for a Zimbabwean passport.
Interestingly, Ovidy Karuru’s name was missing in some, if not most, of those social media team lists, yet history clearly shows that Chidzambga is an admirer of the style of play of the former Masvingo United midfield lynchpin now playing for Amazulu in South Africa.
In fact, Chidzambga even made Karuru his captain for the 2017 Cosafa Cup adventure in South Africa when the player was just coming from a long lay-off through injury.
Whatever the case is, Chidzambga has come up with a team that can easily be described as balanced as it features players who have before been in the situation the Warriors are right now, and others like SC Rödinghausen ’s Kelvin Lunga and Leicester City’s Admiral Muskwe who are determined to make names for themselves in the Warriors colours.
In terms of experience, Chidzambga is not complaining as a lot of it is flooding in his changing room. Knowledge Musona, Danny Phiri, Khama Billiat, Evans Rusike, Marvelous Nakamba, George Chigova, and Kuda Mahachi were part of Kalisto Pasuwa’s Class of 2017 and know exactly what is required to make qualification a reality.
Some of these players even know that this is their last opportunity to leave a permanent mark in the national team jersey as they are not guaranteed their positions over the next two years when Zimbabwe builds up for both the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations finals and the 2022 World Cup.
Now that they have been selected over the too many other Zimbabwean footballers scattered all over the globe, the players should justify the faith and confidence placed in them by the coach and come up not with a draw, but a win and secure qualification.
Qualification and their performance at the finals in Egypt could also determine whether they could be used for the far much more important 2022 World Cup qualifiers which are coming soon after the Africa Cup of Nations finals.
So for the players, there is a lot at stake in the game against Congo-Brazzaville apart from just a win and qualification as that could also have a strong bearing on their future in the Warriors set-up.
The players should believe in themselves that they can make it as everyone is behind them, including the Zimbabwe Football Association who have revealed that, financially, everything is in place for an excellent hosting of the Warriors when they troop into camp.
The crowd will definitely be there to rally behind the Warriors — the finances are there to give them a conducive environment when in camp — and above all, there is the National Sports Stadium, which they know better than the visiting Red Devils.
On that premise, the Warriors should be warned that failure to execute such a simple task of picking up just one point would provoke a whole gamut of emotions including anger from the millions of people who follow them.
The consequences could go beyond estimations. These could even include calls for the Warriors to be disbanded and for the coaches themselves to go as well.
So, the onus is now on the team to deliver the nation to the Promised Land.
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