By Eddie Chikamhi
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s team selection for the COSAFA Cup has virtually passed a vote of no-confidence in home-based strikers.
The squad, which is headlined by national team captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat, is probably the strongest that Zimbabwe has assembled in recent times for the regional tournament.
But the worrying thing is the absence of players plying their trade on the domestic scene among the six-man strikeforce which was picked in the 33-member squad on Monday.
The squad last year had three locally-based players Prince Dube (formerly Highlanders), Blessing Majarira (Herentals) and Raphael Manuvire (then ZPC Kariba).
However, the inconsistent performances by the forwards this season has swayed the technical team to look beyond the borders.
“Our technical team is very fair when it comes to team selection. We always pick the team on merit. If you are playing professional football and you are doing well for your team then we will need to consider you.
“It’s not about playing in a foreign league or domestic league.
“We always strive to give equal chances to everyone.
“But this time we are looking beyond COSAFA. We have got AFCON qualifiers coming up in September and I don’t think we will get time for another camp. So we had to pick the best players at our disposal,” said Chidzambwa.
He has gone for the usual big guns that include Musona, Evans Rusike (Supersport United) and Tinotenda Kadewere (Djurgardens IF).
They were joined by Europe-based players such as Macauley Bonne (Leyton Orient), Kelly Lunga (Bonner SC) and Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City), who had previously been overlooked because they were either born or grew up abroad and did not have Zimbabwean passports.
This meant there will be no place for the locally-based strikers in the squad.
The domestic league, which has so far witnessed 11 rounds of play, is beginning to gain momentum, but with no standout performances from the forwards.
Currently, the quartet of Simba Nhivi of CAPS United, Triangles’ Lameck Nhamo, David Temwanjira (Shabanie Mine) and Ngezi forward Terrence Dzvukamanja lead the scoring charts with five goals apiece.
But their average is slightly below 0.5 goals per game.
Only 10 locally-based players made the 33-member squad with Yadah’s promising forward, Leeroy Mavunga, and Herentals’ playmaker Richard Hachiro the only ones among an array of foreign-based midfielders.
Unlike in the past where the traditional giants of domestic football Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United would have a number of players staking their claim, the foreign-based contingent is dominating the selection this time.
Highlanders skipper Honest Moyo is the only player from the Big Three.
The giants have struggled to assert themselves in the domestic Premiership in recent years.
Soccer Star of the Year runner-up Kelvin Moyo, Jameson Mukombwe (FC Platinum), Byron Madzokere, Mavunga (Yadah), Liberty Chakoroma, Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Harare City), Hachiro (Herentals) Chang Mariyoni (Triangle) and Moyo (Highlanders) will fight for their places in the final 20-man squad for the tournament.
“Of course, we have the AFCON qualifiers as the major focus, but we are looking into the future as well. Leeroy and Hachiro did well against Botswana, they have age on their side.
“Also goalkeeper Bernard has been doing well for Ngezi Platinum. I think he is one goalkeeper with the most number of clean sheets in the league so far this season.
“Remember he also did well for us when we played that international friendly against Mozambique. So I have been following him,” said Chidzambwa.
But the availability of some of the foreign based players like Kundai Benyu, Tendayi Darikwa and Adam Chicksen depends on their ability to secure passports before Sunday’s deadline for the submission of COSAFA squads.
The players have since submitted their documents. The Herald