By Petros Kausiyo
Just when they sought to shift their full attention to their next assignment against Mozambique, the Warriors were yesterday forced to abort their late afternoon training session after being locked out of the National Sports Stadium in questionable circumstances.
Coach Rahman Gumbo’s men have been training twice a day at the giant facility since Tuesday when they resumed their preparations for the first round Group G qualifier against Mozambique in Maputo.
Zimbabwe date Mozambique in the second of the Group G matches in Maputo on Sunday while over the same weekend a battle of the top two is on the cards in Conakry between leaders Egypt and hosts Guinea.
But what appeared a routine session scheduled to start at 4pm turned into a nightmare when the security at the National Sports Stadium indicated that they had been instructed by officials in charge not to allow the Warriors in.
The security guards said the reasons for closing out the Warriors was that the groundsmen at the stadium wanted to do some maintenance work on the turf.
Gumbo and his men were clearly not amused by the drama that unfolded before them and despite spirited efforts to try and convince the groundsmen to let them, their efforts hit a brick wall and left many questions hanging on whether the excuse offered was genuine.
Ironically the stadium authorities had accepted payment from Zifa for use of the facility and the Warriors had held their morning workout — a two-hour session — at the same venue without any hassles.
Zifa chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze branded as unpatriotic the actions that had seen the Warriors’ final session being disrupted but urged the senior team to “remain focussed on the assignment in Maputo’’.
“It is very unfortunate and as Zifa we will try and get to the root cause of this ill-treatment of the national team. We cannot rule out the use of a third force in all this fuss because that third force was also evidently on hand against Guinea last Sunday.
“We are going to file an official complaint with the National Sports Stadium authorities and the relevant ministry . . . this in just unacceptable. It does not make sense to hear someone say we want to do maintenance work at the stadium starting at 4pm when earlier in the day they had allowed the team to train there.
“This behaviour is consistent with away teams and not when you are at home, where has the patriotism gone? After all we are not accessing these facilities for free, we pay for them,’’ Mashingaidze said.
The Zifa chief executive also wondered at the rationale behind trying to “maintain the stadium only now when that could still be done from today onwards since the Warriors are going away to Mozambique’’.
The National Stadium was last week roundly condemned by the domestic football family for the pathetic state of the pitch with even the players complaining of difficulties in controlling the ball.
Zifa have also indicated that they would continue to press the stadium authorities to ensure improvements are done on the pitch which the association prefers to use as the senior team’s home.
But away from the drama that characterised their last day of their home preparations, the Warriors seemed to remain in high spirits with Gumbo retaining 21 players in camp but three will be dropped shortly before the senior team’s departure for Maputo today.
A closer look at the side that has remained in camp, however shows that the FC Platinum coach is not looking at making drastic changes to the side that crashed 1-0 to Guinea in the Group G opener.
Skipper Tapuwa Kapini, his understudy Marlon Jani, and fellow veterans Esrom Nyandoro, Tinashe Nengomasha, Taksesure Chinyama and Onismor Bhasera remain key members of the side.
With the Warriors under pressure to kick-start their campaign with a victory in Maputo, Gumbo is highly unlikely to gamble with taking such players like Simon Munawa and Rodwell Chinyengetere to the showdown in Maputo.
The Warriors coach will no doubt also be praying that the midfield pair of Ajax Cape Town hotshot Khama Billiat and Archieford Gutu who were off colour against Guinea will rediscover their touch as should the striking partnership of Knowledge Musona and Takesure Chinyama.
Gumbo has this week opted to quietly work on getting his team to correct the mistakes they made when falling to an otherwise pedestrian Guinea which left them in a tough position in the round of qualifiers in which only the group winners proceed to the final phase of the knock-out competition.
But vice-captain Nengomasha has been telling the nation that the clash against the Mambas offers them with a chance to redeem their lost pride.
The Kaizer Chiefs midfield general said the onus was now upon the class of 2012 to prove that they are worthy of competing for a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as well as the 2013 African Cup of Nations in neighbouring South Africa.
“We are not as bad a team as our result against Guinea may suggest. I think we did enough to try and win but when you miss the chances like we did you can get punished,’’ Nengomasha said.
Tapuwa Kapini, Marlon Jani, Onismor Bhasera, Vusa Nyoni, Oscar Machapa, Tinashe Nengomasha, Esrom Nyandoro, Willard Katsande, Ovidy Kaurur, Arnold Chaka, Knowledge Musona, Terrence Mandaza, Bradley Pritchard, Denver Mukamba, Takesure Chinyama, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Simon Munawa, Khama Billiat, Archieford Gutu, Tapiwa Khumbuyani, Carlington Nyadombo.
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