BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
WARRIORS coach Zdravko Logarušic is excited to be finally taking charge of the national football team for the first time some 10 months after his appointment when Zimbabwe plays Malawi in an international friendly match at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre this afternoon.
This follows a chaotic week in which the tie hung in the balance after three-quarters of his initial wish squad of foreign-based players withdrew from the friendly encounter for various reasons.
At the same time the government took its sweet time to approve the trip at a time when it is yet to give the green light for football activity to commence in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It has been a painful wait for the Croatian gaffer, who only returned from his native country on Monday last week, but the wait is seemingly over albeit with a makeshift squad.
“Of course, I am excited to be taking charge of my first match although I am not seeing many players I wanted to see, but it’s time to observe some other boys,” the 54-year-old coach told StandardSport at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport before the team’s departure yesterday afternoon.
“It’s a time to give them a chance to show themselves. I am always happy as a coach to have players to work with and this is the best of what we have at the moment so we have to use it,” he added.
Logarušic had initially said he would not consider Zimbabwe-based players because they have not been active, but was forced to announce a squad that included nine locally based players on Thursday.
But luckily for him, the team that left for Blantyre had just five home-based players following some last-minute additions from the South African as well as the Zambian leagues.
Top players such as Tino Kadewere, Marshall Munetsi, Knowledge Musona, Macauley Bonne and Tendai Darikwa, who will be important in next month’s double header Afcon qualifier against Algeria, failed to make the trip for the Malawi match.
It is understood that Logarusic wanted to have a number of untried foreign-based players such as Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura, Tivonge Rushesha, who plays for Swansea, and Myanmar-based defender Victor Kamhuka, among others, in his team.
Logarusic had also included US-based former Warriors goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva in his initial squad as well as Prince Dube, who has been impressive since he moved to Tanzania in August.
While there have been suggestions in some quarters that the Malawi friendly serves no purpose due to the absence of many key national team players, the Croat is adamant that it remains an important tie.
“Every game is important and we are happy to have this match. In every game we get something positive and in this case we have to gel together as a team.
“We are expecting some positive things from this match considering that this is our first assignment this year and we are already 10 months into it. It is important because it is our first match in a long time and I believe that any friendly is a good game,” he said.
Four locally based players — namely Stanley Ngala, Qadr Amini, Phineas Bamusi and Ishmael Wadi — were dropped after yesterday’s training in the morning just before the team’s departure.
The Zambia-based trio of Evans Katema, Tafadzwa Rusike and Dennis Dauda were last-minute additions to the squad, while South African-based fullback Divine Lunga was part of the team that left the country yesterday although he was not on the list announced during the week.
In a strong show of patriotism, Aston Villa midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, Turkey-based defender Teenage Hadebe and Alec Mudimu, who plays in Moldova, are the only players plying their trade in Europe who made it for the match.
The match kicks off at 2:20pm.
Goalkeepers: Talbert Shumba (Triangle United), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum Stars).
Defenders: Ian Nekati (Chicken Inn), Alec Mudimu (Sherriff Tiraspol), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Buildcon), Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor), MacClive Phiri (Sekhukhune United), Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana FC), Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Dennis Dauda (Napsa Stars).
Midfielders: Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Tanaka Chinyahara (Red Arrows), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Wellington Taderera (Ngezi Platinum Stars), King Nadolo (Dynamos).
Strikers: Charlton Mashumba (Polokwane City), Tafadzwa Rusike (Zesco United), Evans Katema (Zanaco).