BY TERRY MADYAUTA
ZIFA president Felton Kamambo has ruled out any possibility of the Warriors playing friendly matches ahead of the resumption of the qualifying games for the 2021 Cameroon Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) set for November.
Zimbabwe will be in action in just over a month’s time after the protracted coronavirus pandemic-enforced break.
After the lengthy break, the Warriors resume their 2021 Afcon qualification campaign with back-to-back ties against African champions Algeria between November 9 and 17 in a mouth-watering Group H top-of-the-table clash.
The other group fixtures will see Zambia and Botswana lock horns in another double header during the same period. The Warriors will round off their Afcon qualifiers in March next year.
With football having opened up around the globe, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic, who is yet to take charge of the team since he was hired in January, was hoping to have a couple of preparatory assignments during the October Fifa window period ahead of the crucial encounters.
But Kamambo does not see the Croat’s wishes being fulfilled as a result of the elongated Covid-19 restrictions, which have left football on the brink.
“I doubt if the Warriors will play any friendlies ahead of the November qualifiers considering the situation and also the window period is very near in September,” Kamambo said during his visit to Gweru last week
“I don’t think we will be able to arrange any friendly matches for the Warriors, but we will have to make sure that we are at our best in every department,” he added.
The development presents a mammoth task for Logarusic who will have to face the continent’s best team without an opportunity to assess his troops in a match situation.
Another potential stumbling block for Logarusic is the fact that world football governing body Fifa has stated that clubs around the world are not obliged to release players for the qualifiers and he might have to do without his foreign-based stars.
In such a case Logarusic will have to depend on South Africa-based players as well as local players, who unfortunately have been inactive all year long.
The 2020 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season remains in doubt with just three months before the year end as the country is still reeling under the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown.
Caf have also banned local stadia from hosting international matches and the government, as well as the local authorities, have been working on the National Sports Stadium, and other stadia, to try and satisfy the Caf inspectors.
But much of the work has since stalled at the country’s main venues and Zimbabwe may end up playing their home matches away from home.
While Logarusic is unlikely to have any opportunity to assess his players in fine-tuning matches, his South African counterpart Molefi Ntseki is set to have two friendly matches against yet-to-be-confirmed Southern African opponents during the October Fifa window period.
The two matches, which will be played on October 7 and 11, will serve as warm-up fixtures for South Africa’s Afcon qualifier against São Tomé and Príncipe, a central African island country.
The South African Football Association (Safa) said in a statement that the Bafana Bafana coach would name the opponents for the warm-up matches at a later date.
In stark contrast, Zifa, who have been clearly sleeping on duty, have ruled out any hopes of the Warriors playing any friendly matches ahead of the crucial phase of qualifiers for the continental tournament.