By Grace Chingoma
ZIFA president Cuthbert Dube says the squad assembled for the World Cup qualifier against Egypt should be the rock on which to build a strong Warriors’ team that will make an impression in the 2015 Nations Cup campaign.
The Harare business executive, who hosted the Warriors at his offices yesterday just hours before they left for their mission in Egypt, believes the nation has found a squad of young men who can be moulded into a very strong national team ahead of the next Nations Cup qualifiers.
Dube said the new-look Warriors were not tainted by the Asiagate match-fixing scandal, which rocked the local football community for the past three years, and he was hopeful they will evolve into an efficient fighting force that will make the nation proud.
Warriors’ caretaker coach, Dieter-Klaus Pagels, has drafted in a number of young players with a number of heavyweight names like former skipper, Method Mwanjali, still sidelined as he fights for his innocence after being banned for life by Zifa.
Experienced players like Nyasha Mushekwi, Cuthbert Malajila and Edward Sadomba, who were either cleared or given a reprieve in the Asiagate saga, have been left on the sidelines with traces of suspicion still lingering on after that dark period.
Midfielder, Ovidy Karuru, was a late call-up to the team while ‘keeper Washington Arubi, who was given a reprieve, has earned the trust of Pagels. Dube is bullish that they are preparing a team that will not only compete but also make the entire nation very proud.
“This is the team which should prepare for 2015 African Cup of Nations, they are young and from what l hear they have not been tainted, they are the future,” said Dube. We have already said that this is a year of rebuilding.
“There shouldn’t be any fears, you would be very safe (in Egypt). We have had a series of meetings with Egypt here and in Morroco during the Caf Congress, and they have assured us that you would be safe with heavy police escort all the time and they will also limit the number of supporters who will come to watch the match.”
Warriors’ assistant coach, Lloyd Mutasa, also agreed with his Zifa boss, saying “they are a young team, which is hungry for success, very capable and the sky is the limit for them”.
A small band of eight home-based players and their technical team, which included assistant coach Peter Ndlovu, left the capital yesterday via Addis Ababa where they were scheduled to meet with the South Africa-based counterparts.
They would then connect to Cairo in two batches to Cairo with the first group expected to arrive around 2am, while the remainder will arrive at 7am.
Yesterday, the players, speaking on the sidelines of a farewell ceremony hosted by Dube and also graced by the Football Trust, said they were raring to go and ready to use the massive chance they have been given by their coach.
Dynamos defender, Augustine Mbara, who would be earning a first cap in the national team, says he was ready to give it his best shot.
“It would be a very competitive game, away from home, but we will try our best because it is really going to be a fight,” said Mbara.
“Those guys are not friendly and what they do is that in the first two days they would be nice, hosting you well, but on the match day it would be hostile and even the referees would behave in the same manner. So we have to be prepared for all this and not let it affect us.
“It is going to be my first time to play for the senior team but football is the same, club or national team football and most of the players in the team, I once played with them in the Under-20 team.”
Another Warriors’ defender, Partson Jaure, who also returned this Tuesday from Tunisia with champions Dynamos, is aware of the threat that can be posed by North African opposition after the Harare giants slumped to a 0-3 defeat.
“We don’t want to concede. l think we have improved from the first game and this time it would be water-tight,” said Jaure.
“I learnt in Tunisia that alertness at the back and tracking them down is really important. From the defence we don’t want to concede and will do our part and in attack they should also do their part.”
Highlanders’ midfielder, Masimba Mambare, who was on standby and got the last call-up on Tuesday night after Gilbert Mapemba pulled out with an injury, said their team, which has received little support, will appeal to the supporters with time.
“It is normal in football that every new thing is doubted and resisted at first but it is up to us now to prove them wrong by doing well in Egypt.
“It is a great honour to play for your country and I was happy when it was confirmed that I am now in the team. I will take my chance and use it to enhance my career as well,” said Mambare.
Harare City midfielder Silas Songani, who will have to battle it out for a place in the middle of the park where there is a galaxy of players, is also excited to be in the team.
“I am happy and I want to do well and want our team to win. Football no longer has young players but football is the same and we will try our best,” he said.
Dynamos defender Ocean Mushure says the young team should repay the confidence which has been entrusted into them by coach Pagels and prove their critics wrong. “This is an opportunity and a chance to prove ourselves. We are going to work as a team and work hard for a victory,” said Mushure.
Goalkeeper Maxwell Nyamupangedengu, who is likely to deputise Pretoria University’s Washington Arubi, was also confident that the new team will fare well in their first competitive assignment.
“It is going to be a tough game considering that we are mostly rookies but we will throw everything we have and I am sure we will come out with a result because football is the same,” said Nyamupangedengu.
At the send-off ceremony, the Football Trust which was represented by the chairman Tshinga Dube and commissioners Marah Hativagone, Patience Khumalo, Ben Gwarada and George Shaya, pledged to continue supporting the national team.
The Trust, which was appointed last month, has 13 members from the corporate world and got down to business and secured funding for the airfares without any hiccups.
“Our task for the team to travel has been carried out. Football is the most beautiful game and needs our responsibility,” said Tshinga Dube.
“We came into the office against a background of many challenges but we want the past to be forgotten and turn a new leaf. We shall work around the clock to make sure the resources are available and enable the secretariat to work on the technical aspect of the game only.”
Warriors’ fans represented by protocol chief, Simeon Jamanda, also rallied behind the boys and the coaches and said the team should not let the opinions of detractors affect them.
Goalkeepers: Washington Arubi, Maxwell Nyamupangedengu.
Defenders: Lincolin Zvasiya, Partson Jaure, Augustine Mbara, Ocean Mushure, Hardlife Zvirekwi.
Midfielders: Denver Mukamba, Khama Billiart, Ovidy Karuru, Archieford Gutu, Abbas Amidu, Tafadzwa Rusike, Ronald Chitiyo, Silas Songani, Masimba Mambare.
Strikers: Knowledge Musona, Roderick Mutuma.
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