‘Don’t dare’ Hands off my Warriors, warns Pasuwa
By Petros Kausiyo
Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa has come out guns blazing in defence of his troops ahead of their departure for the African Cup of Nations with the unassuming gaffer reckoning that his players had become targets of unwarranted abuse on and off social media.
Pasuwa is not particularly amused at what he perceived as targeted abuse of some of his players ahead of the naming of the final 23 man-squad this week.
The Warriors are at the weekend also expected to leave for the final leg of their training camp which will be spiced up by an international friendly against Cameroon in Yaounde on January 10.
After a four-day stint in Cameroon, the Warriors will then head to Franceville to set up base just in time for their opening Group B game against Algeria on January 15.
But as the Warriors, who took a weekend break on New Year’s eve regrouped, their coach revealed he was not happy with the manner in which his players were being abused by some fans and on social media.
Pasuwa said he was also concerned that the national media “seemed to join in on what has been happening on social media and painted the wrong picture of our camp”.
The former Dynamos coach said contrary to the scenario being painted about the Warriors, there was “harmony and a united approach to training by the players and the technical department”.
Pasuwa said he had noted with concern that goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, and forwards – Khama Billiat, Cuthbert Malajila, Tendai Ndoro and Knowledge Musona – had been the main targets for abuse.
The 46-year-old coach also expressed surprise at the debate that has been sparked by his decision to grant Mamelodi Sundowns talisman Khama Billiat a rest following the South African Premiership Player of the Year’s long season that stretched over 15 months.
Pasuwa fears that the social media abuse where images of his players’ social lives have been splashed are aimed at distracting them from their mission in Gabon rather than motivating the players.
“What we need now more than ever is the unity and support of everyone. We have a very tough mission ahead of us and the mission in Gabon is not for my personal glory or the glory of the players, it is for every Zimbabwean.
“But I am surprised and disappointed that at a time when we should be encouraging these boys and motivating them to go out there and die for the nation, we seem bent on destroying them and abusing them,” Pasuwa said.
Pasuwa also insisted that he would not publicly discuss any action or comments he makes to his players should any of them stray off the disciplinary line.
“We have our code of conduct and if there are any issues that we need to resolve we do so in-house and that is what we have always been doing.
“It must also be remembered that I was the first person to observe that Khama needed to be rested and to be managed properly in terms of his physical condition if he is to give us his best in Gabon and I announced at Easter last year before we played Swaziland.
“So there is nothing new really now and our doctors have been assessing the reports from the clubs and doing their own checks so that we get professional advice,” Pasuwa said.
Pasuwa also revealed that Belgium-based star striker Musona is expected to join camp today after featuring for his club in their Boxing Day assignment.
The coach also said he was baffled by some critics who were now questioning the inclusion of such players like Malajila when he had stressed that he would stick with the bulk of the players who featured in the qualification campaign and sealed their place in Gabon with a game to spare.
And as he prepares to trim his squad to the final travelling party Pasuwa reiterated the need for “national support”.
“I am saddened that at a time when as a nation we should now be coming together in unity to give these players all the material and morale support that they need for the big battles in Gabon, some elements have sought to divide the Warriors by making all sorts of claims against this player and that player.
“Some are even suggesting that there is a lot of indiscipline in camp because of some pictures circulated on social media, which is not true at all.
“I have worked with these players ever since I was appointed Under-23 coach and later assistant coach to Ian Gorowa in the Warriors and up to now as the head coach and I want to make it clear that there has never been a committed and wonderful bunch of national team players like this group that I have.
“Many times they have gone without bonuses or allowances but they have remained united and committed and I want to tell the nation once again that I have faith in my players and please if you are bent on causing problems or divisions stay far away from my team.
“It is sad that Khama, Ndoro, Tatenda, Cuthbert and Knowledge have so far been the main targets of abuse but I know how I handle my players and at this point I am sorry to say I do not need anyone lecturing me on that.
“So give us a chance to focus and to go and represent Zimbabwe the best way we know and to the best of our abilities,” said Pasuwa. The Chronicle