By Eddie Chikamhi
The ZIFA leadership have dropped plans for a charter plane to Liberia for the Warriors’ trip to Monrovia for yet another crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier against the Lone Star on Sunday.
The soccer mother body had hoped that they could secure a charter flight which would have also enabled the Warriors to travel with a band of supporters for the encounter in which a draw will suffice to seal their qualification for the 2019 Nations Cup in Cameroon in June next year.
But the foreign currency shortages gripping the country have also put paid to the plans which ZIFA had of easing the travel arrangements for the Warriors.
The Warriors, who lead Group G with a three-point cushion going into the penultimate round of the qualifiers, will then complete their assignments with a home tie against Congo in March next year.
But coach Sunday Chidzambwa wants the qualification sealed with a game to spare and has assembled the strongest squad possible for the trip to Monrovia.
ZIFA vice-president Omega Sibanda yesterday said the association, which has been fully behind the team in the campaign, and had hoped to send a charter plane to Liberia to give the boys the morale boost.
But the plans fell through because of the huge amounts involved.
ZIFA needed at least $150 000 in hard currency to secure the charter that would also have accommodated the 12th man on the trip.
With the charter flight now out of the way, Chidzambwa and his local contingent are expected to leave the country on Wednesday while the majority of the Warriors who ply their trade outside the country are expected to fly straight to Liberia and arrive on Thursday.
There are no direct flights to Liberia from Zimbabwe and ZIFA are trying to skirt the hectic travel arrangements on the continent.
“We had wanted our supporters to rally behind the team in Liberia but the charges were on the high side considering that the money should be paid in US dollars.
Zimbabwe lead Group G with eight points, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo who have five points. Congo and Liberia have four points apiece and still have mathematical chances of qualifying.
That mathematical chances on the part of Liberia and Congo, however, only serve to enhance the Warriors chances of qualifying as they would have cancelled the DRC from the equation. Chidzambwa’s men are not interested in getting into all those permutations and just want to do the job for themselves.
Sibanda urged the Warriors, who graced the previous finals in Gabon last year, to maintain their fight.
“Let’s keep living the dream. We are closer to qualifying than we had hoped we will be when we started the campaign. A draw in Liberia and we are assured of qualification.
“But that should not fool us into complacency, in fact we should aim for an outright win when we go to Liberia because we have to finish the campaign on a high note,’’ Sibanda said.
“As Zimbabwe that is our aim. We have a very good squad with dedicated players and members of the technical. We would want to seal our qualification as early as possible and if that happens that would also be a clear demonstration that the ZIFA leadership is delivering on its core business.
“We were at the finals last year and our girls played at the Olympics. No other leadership in the history of ZIFA has been this consistent in terms of qualifying for major tournaments. So we want the fire to keep burning,” said Sibanda.
Their opponents Liberia are not resting on their laurels despite occupying the bottom spot on the group log standings. The Lone Star coach Thomas Kojo has named 11 foreign-based players in his squad to face Zimbabwe.
A release from the Liberia Football Association said Newcastle United’s Mohammed Sangare has been added to the squad after sorting out work permit issues that kept him out of the last three games.
Goalkeeper Boison Wynney de Souza, Joel Johnson Alajarin, team captain William Jerbo, Sam Garyahzon Johnson and Kpah Sean Sherman are among the 10 players playing outside Liberia named in the squad.
The LFA also named the midfielders as Anthony Snoti Laffor, Murphy Oscar Dorley, Tonia Tisdell, Sylvanus C. Nimely and Allen Njie. The players were expected to start trooping into camp yesterday. The Herald