Japan snub Zimbabwe to play Mozambique
By Petros Kausiyo
ZIMBABWE’S Warriors have missed a dream friendly international date against Japan with the Asian nation having a last-minute change of heart and deciding to play Mozambique in George on Thursday.
Zifa board member in charge of competitions Benedict Moyo revealed yesterday that the Japanese — who had initially proposed to play the Warriors — would now play Mozambique.
The Warriors drew global attention last Wednesday when they hosted five-time world champions Brazil in a high-profile international friendly at the National Sports Stadium, which attracted a huge crowd at the giant facility.
Although the Samba Boys ran out comfortable 3-0 winners it was not before the Warriors had given Kaka, Robinho and their fellow global stars a good run for their money.
Now, barely a week after they hosted their biggest international match in terms of profile, the Warriors had been offered another dream game which would have been Japan’s final warm-up before they kick-start their World Cup Group E campaign.
Japan will begin their World Cup campaign with a tough assignment against African giants Cameroon in Bloemfontein on June 14.
They will also face European sides Holland at the Moses Mabidha Stadium in Durban on June 19 and Denmark in Rustenburg on June 24 in their other group games.
Moyo revealed yesterday that his board had agreed over the weekend to engage the Japanese World Cup squad in George.
He, however, could not shed light on the reasons behind Japan’s decision to settle for Mozambique arguing that he was still to receive official communication on the latest developments by last night.
“The position that I had was that after we agreed as a board to send the Warriors to South Africa for the match. We were now working on ensuring that the team leaves for that important game.
“I have just heard that things have since changed and I am trying to get the office to update me on the communication they may have received from the Japanese,’’ Moyo said.
Moyo said his association had been excited by the prospects of playing another World Cup finalist and had immediately taken up the offer once it was presented to the board members at the weekend.
After watching the Warriors’ game against the Samba Boys in Harare, Japan believed Norman Mapeza’s men were the ideal African team that could give them the final dry run they need before they plunge into World Cup action with a showdown against Indomitable Lions of Cameroon.
“Once we got the invitation from Japan to send our national team for a training game against their World Cup squad we generally agreed as a board that this was a good opportunity for our players and the coaches to have a game against World Cup opponents.
“We have said that we would want to change the face of football during our tenure and strengthening our national teams is one of our priority areas.
“We were all so happy with the way the team performed against Brazil and I think they made the whole nation proud,’’ Moyo said.
But the hopes of another dance with a World Cup team for the Warriors will now remain just a dream after it emerged that Zifa took too long to confirm the senior team’s availability.
Sources close to the deal indicated last night that Japan had initially courted Premiership giants CAPS United as their opponents for the training game.
Japan wanted the game to be played along the same lines and spirit as England’s training game against South African Premiership side Platinum Stars in Rustenburg yesterday.
“Initially Japan wanted to play CAPS United and a lot of ground had been covered in that direction. They then inquired about the prospects of playing the national team but the initial response from Zifa was that the Warriors were not available.
“By the time Zifa confirmed the availability of the Warriors for the game, Japan had given up hopes of that game and they contacted Mozambique.
“They also took advantage of the Mozambicans’ presence in South Africa for a friendly against Portugal to also arrange to play with them on Thursday in place of Zimbabwe,’’ the sources said.
Zifa chief executive Henrietta Rushwaya said last night that they only received the official communication from Japan on Saturday night.
“Things have changed at Zifa because everything has to be sanctioned by the board first and when we got the communication we forwarded it to the relevant authorities in the board,” said Rushwaya. The board members discussed the issue on Sunday and agreed that our team should play in that friendly international.
“We had put the mechanisms in place, by today (yesterday) for the team to travel, only to be told that there had been change of plans.
“After the problems related to foreign trips that we have had in the past, we believe it is only right that everything be sanctioned by the board and the Sports Commission should also give its green light and you will appreciate that won’t be done over a few hours on a Sunday.”
Sources said yesterday Zimbabwe also lost the chance to secure a youth development grant from Japan, which the Asian country was offering as part of the appearance fees for the Warriors. The Herald