By Petros Kausiyo
MOROKA Swallows defender, Gilbert Mapemba, has been recalled to the Zimbabwe Warriors for their World Cup qualifying assignment against Egypt, albeit on a standby basis, as interim national coach Klaus Dieter Pagels continues to grapple with forced changes to the side that will travel to Alexandria.
Mapemba was used in an unfamiliar centre back role when the Warriors played an international friendly against Botswana at Rufaro on February 6 with the former CAPS United man lasting just 45 minutes before Kaizer’s Chiefs’ Lincoln Zvasiya — a natural central defender — came in for him in the second period.
But the fact that he has remained on the radar and has been installed as the first choice defender on standby means that Mapemba is still very much in Pagels’ plans.
Pagels, preparing for his first competitive assignment as Warriors coach, has seen his decision to name only 18 players backfire on him terribly as injuries to players have forced him into making changes to his original team.
The tall German coach, also set to take charge of only his second match, was first forced to alter his team after Kaizer Chiefs striker Matthew Rusike picked a groin injury that ruled him out of the massive Group qualifier.
Just as he did with his initial squad, Pagels then sprung another surprise when he turned to Ajax Cape Town winger Tafadzwa Rusike as Matthew Rusike’s replacement.
Pagels was at the weekend dealt another blow to his plans when Super Sport United striker, Simba Sithole, injured his hamstring in a Pretoria derby against Mamelodi Sundowns that will keep him out of action for at least four weeks.
In Sithole’s place, Pagels decided against directly replacing the SuperSport newboy with another outright striker and opted for talented Belgium-based midfielder Ovidy Karuru, a move that left only German-based Knowldege Musona and Roderick Mutuma of Bloemfontein Celtic as the two outright strikers in the team.
Karuru’s omission had also raised eyebrows given the lack of experience and the absence of a playmaker in the midfield ensemble around which Pagels is looking to build his future Warriors.
But the rate at which the players he named in his team for the Pharaohs assignment are picking up injuries is beginning to be serious cause for concern for Pagels and the Warriors coach yesterday placed Mapemba on standby. Warriors team manager, Sharrif Mussa, revealed that the coach had decided to now add Highlanders’ Masimba Mambare and Nicholas Guyo to his initial squad.
Mussa said with the Warriors travelling away to Egypt, it was important to make the necessary visa applications for the players who are in the coach’s plans ahead of the senior national team’s planned departure for Cairo on March 21.
“At the rate players are picking up injuries and considering that time is running out the coach decided to add three more players who will be on standby for this game.
“Remember, we also have three Dynamos players that are travelling to Tunisia for the Champions League game and returning late on Wednesday, which is just a day before we leave so we pray that none of those players or those involved in other league assignments in South Africa and Europe have the misfortune of being injured ,’’ Mussa said.
Defenders Partson Jaure, Ocean Mushure and Augustine Mbara are part of the Dynamos delegation that is scheduled to fly out to Tunisia today for a Champions League, first round, first leg encounter against Club Bizertein on Sunday.
Mussa said Pagels was highly unlikely to include another overseas player after his late inclusion of Karuru on Monday. Chief striker Musona, Sweden-based Archford Gutu and Quincy Antipas, who plays in Denmark, are the only overseas-based players included in the Warriors side.
Karuru, controversially frozen out from the Warriors then under Rahman Gumbo in their final African Cup of Nations qualifier against Angola, had also been initially overlooked for selection when Pagels named the team to do duty in Egypt.
Although the coach’s argument has been that he is building a “new-look’’ Warriors, whose players would not be part of the previous national teams that failed to achieve anything, he has been forced to swallow his pride in some departments.
He has been forced to consider such seasoned players like Pretoria University goalkeeper Washington Arubi, who has previously seen duty with the squad on a number of occasions.
There have been genuine concerns, however, that the Warriors look lightweight for the tough assignment that awaits them in Alexandria where Egypt, unbeaten in two starts in these qualifiers, will be looking to extend their flying start and advance to the final phase of the race for one of only five African slots next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil.
Washington Arubi, Maxwell Nyamupangedengu, Hardlife Zvirekwi, Partson Jaure, Denver Mukamba, Ocean Mushure, Archieford Gutu, Quincy Antipas,Silas Songani, Abbas Amidu, Ronald Chitiyo, Khama Billiat, Knowledge Musona, Roderick Mutuma, Lincoln Zvasiya, Augustine Mbara, Tafadzwa Rusike.