insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
THERE has been a lot of talk concerning the squad that Warriors coach Joey Antipas has picked for Zimbabwe’s 2022 World Cup engagement against African football lightweights Somalia.
The team has been heavily criticised, with some even calling it “no-hopers” in this run-up to Qatar 2022 after Zimbabwe missed out on the 2018 World Cup edition in Russia due to Zifa’s failure to pay former Warriors coach Valinhos from Brazil.The omission of players like George Chigova of Polokwane City in South Africa, Danny Phiri of Golden Arrows and Ovidy Karuru of Amazulu also in South Africa
has raised questions as to whether Zimbabwe is serious in its ambition to make the journey to the global football festival come the year 2022.
The absence of Tendai Darikwa of Nottingham Forest in the English Championship as well as Knowledge Musona of Anderlecht due to injuries has also worsened
Whether this is to do with the opposition — Somalia — who are lowly ranked in African football, is something else, but the truth is that there has been
evolution in the game of football and there are no longer small teams anymore and even Somalia can turn things around against Zimbabwe.
Teams like Somalia are the ones which Zimbabwe must not underestimate, but should beat at will to make clear their intentions and also improve their ranking
both on the continent and in the world as the ranking would be of benefit in future competitions.
More important is the fact that Zimbabwe needed its best team against Somalia since this is the foundation to matches that will come up in future, including
2021 Africa Cup engagements against Africa champions Algeria, Botswana and Zambia.
What, however, is disturbing is the fact that the coach is understood to have deliberately left out some of the big-name players following an order, allegedly
from Zifa, for their part in the rift between the national football federation and the players at Afcon 2019 in Egypt.
There is, in fact, every reason to suspect that an under-current exists in the whole Warriors team issue, especially when looking at the case of Phiri. Antipas
and Deco have a good long-term relationship and there is no way the coach would have left out his former captain from the squad unless there were outside
If this is true, then the coach should have refused to take the Zifa order because in the end he is the one who will shoulder blame should the team lose, and
not the football controlling body.
The truth is that Antipas should have been given free rein to choose whoever he wanted to play for the Warriors even players who are not in good books with
Zifa because Zifa do not bring results on the field of play, but the players do.
Zifa should also have turned down Aston Villa’s request to hold onto Marvelous Nakamba. Why would the English Premiership side want Nakamba during this period
when their other players are leaving the club to represent their countries in the World Cup and the Uefa Nations League?
What Zifa did will open a page of dictatorship on the part of Aston Villa in future as they now know that they can hang onto Nakamba anytime they want him even
if it is for international friendly matches at the expense of Zimbabwe’s Africa Cup of Nations and World Cup ambitions.
The fact that the club paid US$12 million for the Zimbabwean means the English Premiership team was satisfied with what the gritty midfielder has to offer and
there is no reason for them to assess him for anything now.
However, Antipas should be applauded for keeping faith in goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze despite his nightmarish performance in the 4-0 thrashing by the Democratic
Republic of Congo in Egypt.
The boy has not let that Egypt show affect him and with the support from his South African club, has been in brilliant form for Baroka in the Absa Premiership
and deserves another Warriors call-up. What he now needs is the support of all Zimbabweans when he, once again, lines up for the Warriors in both their assault
for Afcon 2021 and the 2022 World Cup.
Whatever the case, whether Zimbabweans agree or do not agree with Antipas’ team, the issue remains that this is what is there and the whole nation should give
the team all the support they need when they face Somalia.
Now that Zifa have lowered what they are giving out to players as bonuses and appearance fees, the football controlling body should make sure that even that
little is available to avoid a repeat of the chaos in Egypt.
So far, it appears Zifa have avoided the gun for what happened in Cairo, but a second escape might not be possible should the players revolt again, and for
that matter at home.
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