By Petros Kausiyo
Government has stepped in to try and resolve the challenges being faced by Zimbabwean players who were born and bred in Europe, but have indicated their willingness to play for the Warriors.
The development gives a ray of hope to coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s injury-stricken Warriors that he could have more players at his disposal ahead of Zimbabwe’s trip to Congo.
Youth, Sport, Arts and Recreation Minister Kazembe Kazembe said last night he had tasked his ministry’s officials and the Sport and Recreation Commission, to expedite efforts to assist ZIFA in securing Zimbabwean passports for such players like Tendayi Darikwa, Adam Chicksen, Kelvin Lunga, Tristan Nydam and McCauley Bonne.
The players, affectionately known as the “British Brigade” were born to Zimbabwean parents, but hold British passports.
Coach Sunday Chidzambwa has not made a secret of his intentions to have them in his Warriors ahead of the resumption of the African Cup of Nations qualifying marathon on September 9.
Kazembe said he was expecting to have some feedback from the joint operation by his ministry and the Sports Commission by tomorrow.
He said although his ministry were keen to have the players issued with Zimbabwean passports, they would stand guided by their counterparts in the Home Affairs and Culture Ministry on the legalities involved in securing travel documents for the players.
Kazembe, however, insisted that his office had to date not received formal communication over the matter, but noted that the issue had generated huge national interest given the emotions that football and the Warriors, in particular, evoke in this country.
“The problem is that as a ministry we have not received any formal request on the matter. We are a ministry that works with structures and one of those structures is the Sport and Recreation Commission.
“If ZIFA want our intervention over any issues it comes through the Sports Commission. Even in the absence of formal communication, as is the case right now, we are still intervening because there is national interest.
“But we still need to formally have the issues that are at stake because passports are issued by the Home Affairs Ministry and what I can do and which I am doing, is to assist and facilitate.
“If it was a situation of players who are here in the country, or those who did not hold another passport, it would be more straightforward in terms of applying for the Zimbabwean passport.
“So, like I said, we are in the process of establishing if the players meet the legal requirements in wanting to become Zimbabwean passport holders, but essentially we stand guided by the Ministry of Home Affairs,” Kazembe said.
The Minister, a former Dynamos secretary-general, said he was also aware of the need to assist the national coach with the best available talent the country could harness.
“In the interests of the country and sport I have instructed my officials to get down to the matter and just this afternoon I also did some checks with Siwela (Sports Commission chairman).
“It’s in our interests as a ministry and as a country to have our best players and my officials and SRC are now seized with the matter and by tomorrow or Friday we should have some feedback,” Kazembe said.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare has been working round the clock to establish links and try and secure the necessary documents for all the players who have expressed a huge interest in wearing the colours of their fatherland.
Leicester City forward, Admiral Muskwe, Nottingham Forest defender Darikwa and big forward Bonne have previously featured for Zimbabwe, but only in friendly matches.
Mpandare has over the last year managed to track down, at least, 30 players of Zimbabwean origin who are willing to feature for the Warriors.
Meanwhile, Marshal Munetsi played the whole 90 minutes last night as Orlando Pirates, who played for the better part of the game with 10 men, beat Black Leopards at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Thamsanqa Gabuza, who was booed by his fans in the first half for missing some chances, saw his cross being turned home by a Leopards defender to open the scoring for Pirates.
Gabuza reacted by throwing his shirt into the crowd and leaving the pitch to retreat into the dressing rooms leaving his team a man short with about 10 minutes of the half still to play.
When he re-emerged from the dressing room at the end of the interval, he was shown two yellow cards — one for removing his jersey and another for going into the dressing room without the authority of the match officials.
It meant Pirates had to play the entire second half a man short and that piled the load of work on defensive midfielder Munetsi.