By Eddie Chikamhi
Legendary Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa has challenged the Warriors to grab the stage and maintain his spotless record at the COSAFA Castle Cup tournament when the regional football jamboree begins in South Africa this weekend.
Chidzambwa, who has presided over the Warriors twice before in this competition and on both occasions winning the championship, has been given the responsibility to revive Zimbabwe’s fortunes at the tournament.
The Warriors have performed poorly in recent years. And, as they began their training yesterday at the National Sports Stadium, Chidzambwa, winner of the COSAFA Castle Cup in 2003 and 2009, was clear in his address to the players about his expectations.
“The attendance was 100 percent and I am happy about that. I am also happy that the youngsters and the experienced players that we brought in are very good. “As a coach you need to get to the final and personally I would love to get to the final. COSAFA, being COSAFA, I have gone into the final twice and I just hope and pray that for the third time in a row I will get to the final and win it,” said Chidzambwa
The former Warriors skipper was the last coach to lead Zimbabwe to glory in this tournament eight years ago. He is currently employed by ZPC Kariba and will take up the Warriors duties exclusively for this tournament which start this Sunday and run up to July 9 in the North West Province, South Africa.
Chidzambwa said it was disappointing that a team like Zimbabwe will have to start at the preliminary stages after they were drawn in Group B which also features Mozambique, Seychelles and Madagascar.
The Warriors get their campaign rolling on Monday against Mozambique at the Moruleng Stadium, before clashes with Madagascar at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace two days later and then Seychelles at the same venue on June 30.
The winner from the group will proceed to the quarter-finals where they will face Swaziland on July 2, with the winner of the last eight tie proceeding to meet either Namibia or Lesotho in the semis. But Zimbabwe have disappointed in the last two editions when they failed to progress from the group stages.
Their last best performance was reaching the final in 2013 and losing 2-0 to hosts Zambia. Although Chidzambwa’s selection was limited to not more than two players per team because of the Premiership games which will continue alongside the tournament, the veteran coach has called up a balanced side of youth and experience.
The squad also has five South Africa based-players Knox Mutizwa, Michelle Katsvairo, Eric Chipeta, Ovidy Karuru and big goalkeeper George Chigova.
The squad is headlined by some of the current top performers in the domestic Premiership like Ocean Mushure, Bruce Homora, Jameson Mukombwe, Liberty Chakoroma, Leeroy Mavhunga, Prince Dube and youthful Bantu Rovers skipper Bukhosi Sibanda who is the current top goalscorer.
Northern Region Division One striker Blessing Majarira has also been included. “I think we have very good players, very skilful youth and experience. I’m quite happy with their fitness and, looking at them, I think they are raring to go,’’ said Chidzambwa.
*Goalkeepers*: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Takabva Mawaya (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Talbert Mutombeni (Chapungu)
*Defenders:* Eric Chipeta (Ajax Cape Town), Ocean Mushure (Dynamos), Honest Moyo (Highlanders), Bruce Homora (Black Rhinos), *Jimmy Tigere (Harare City), Jameson Mukombwe (Black Rhinos), Nyasha Mpofu (Shabanie)*
*Midfielders:* Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Gerald Takwara (FC Platinum) Ovidy Karuru (AmaZulu), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah Stars), Talent Chawapiwa (FC Platinum), Michelle Katsvairo (Kaizer Chiefs), Innocent Mucheneka (Chicken Inn), Collins Duwa (Shabanie)
*Forwards:* Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Prince Dube (Highlanders), Bukhosi Sibanda (Bantu Rovers), Blessing Majarira (Herentals), Raphael Manuvire (ZPC Kariba). The Herald