By Eddie Chikamhi
The outrageous decision to overlook CAPS United’s in-form midfielder Joel Ngodzo from a 32-member Warriors squad for the first 2020 CHAN qualifier in Mauritius has torched a huge uproar in domestic football.
It has also opened the wounds inflicted by the Warriors’ doomed campaign at the 2019 AFCON finals where the national team picked only a point and finished bottom of the table.
The Warriors are due to start their 2020 CHAN qualifiers with an away date against Mauritius on Sunday.
The reverse fixture is set for Barbourfields a week later.
However, before the Warriors troop into camp today at the Yadah Hotel complex, the composition of the squad picked by coach Sunday Chidzambwa has sparked controversy.
Social media went into overdrive yesterday, once the squad, which was first leaked by a member of the Ngezi Platinum technical staff at the weekend, was confirmed as the team which has been drafted into camp.
And, it appears, everyone is confused how Ngodzo, who has been one of the best three players in the domestic Premiership this season, has been left out of the 32-man squad.
The 30-year old midfielder has turned back the hands of time to a period when he first emerged on the domestic scene carrying a lot of expectations on his shoulders, with some good performances for the Green Machine.
The youngest of a football-playing family, which also gave the domestic game his brothers Johannes and Zephania, Josta – as Ngodzo is affectionately known – has been the stand-out performer at CAPS United.
His exclusion from the Warriors squad that represented the country at the COSAFA Cup this year also sparked controversy, with many believing he deserved his chance.
But, while some also argued that taking him to COSAFA, in a team that had some foreign-based players, would not be justified, leaving him out of a provisional team for the CHAN qualifiers, doesn’t appear to make any sense.
Especially, because Josta is a creative midfielder, the very player the Warriors seem to be struggling to get to help their forwards, the one who can open up defences with one good pass.
Josta is probably one of the reasons why the Green Machine are still in the race for the league championship this year with his assists, helping his teammates get crucial goals, while he has also scored a number of goals.
His latest goal came during the lively Harare Derby at Rufaro on Sunday where he ran the show, in midfield, especially in the first half, and scored for his side with a fine low drive.
His teammates Phineas Bamusi, Blessing Sarupinda and Ronald Chitiyo, who comes in as a surprise pick because he is still to rediscover his best form after recovering from a long-term injury that kept him on the sidelines for over a year.
How Chitiyo, who could only play the final two minutes of regulation time in the Harare Derby, could make the squad ahead of Josta has sent social media buzzing.
However, there was no clear explanation for his omission yesterday.
Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa yesterday was reluctant to talk about his squad and his plans for the CHAN qualifier.
“I am told the players should be getting into camp (today),” said Chidzambwa.
“Unfortunately, I cannot comment any further at the moment because so many things are happening.
“For now, you can talk to either the team manager or the people at ZIFA.’’
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said he had been advised by his employers at ZIFA that media communication now has to come from the association’s offices and officials.
The CHAN tournament is reserved only for the local players and, with the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League almost approaching the half way stage, the Warriors technical team should have had a wide pool to make their selection.
Unlike neighbours South Africa, who have taken a stance to use the Under-23s in their CHAN match against Lesotho, as part of preparations for the upcoming AFCON qualifier against Zimbabwe set for next month, ZIFA have opted to go with a team of seasoned players.
Had ZIFA chosen to use the Under-23s, for the CHAN assignments, it would have made sense, even if they lost, because the association would have been praised for looking at the bigger picture.
The provisional squad is understood to have caused friction on the ZIFA officials interactive social media platform with some questioning the players who have been selected.
ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said the Warriors were set for their first training session this morning at the Yadah Complex, where they were expected to be camped for the first leg.
The team is expected to leave for Mauritius on Friday, two days before the game.
As was largely expected, Chicken Inn’s Clive Augusto, who has had a storming start this season after plundering 13 goals from 15 games, is leading the cast.
In fact, the Gamecocks have the highest number of players in the squad after six of their players were shortlisted.
These include defender Xolani Ndlovu, Innocent Mucheneka, Aubrey Chirinda, Malvin Gaki and goalkeeper Donovan Bernard.
Veteran Highlanders goalkeeper, Ariel Sibanda, also marked his return to the national team fold and is one of the four goalminders while his teammate, Prince Dube, who is a survivor of the previous CHAN campaign.
There were also places for Warriors returnees Partson Jaure, Talbert Shumba, Lawrence Mhlanga, Byron Madzokere, Qadr Amini, Nqobizitha Masuku, Richard Hachiro, Nelson Chadya and Leeroy Mavhunga.
Evans Katema, who recently signed with Dynamos, has also received the call.
Warriors CHAN Squad
Donovan Bernard (Chicken Inn), Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
Lawrence Mhlanga (FC Platinum), Partson Jaure (Manica Diamonds), Ian Nekati (ZPC Kariba), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Harare City), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars), Xolani Ndlovu (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini (Ngezi), Frank Mukarati (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Donald Dzvinyai (Triangle United)
Ralph Kawondera (Triangle United), Kudzai Chigwida (Triangle United), Kelvin Madzongwe (FC Platinum), Nqobizitha Masuku (Highlanders), Innocent Mucheneka (Chicken inn), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Donald Teguru (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Never Tigere (FC Platinum), Blessing Sarupinda (CAPS United), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah Stars), Phenias Bhamusi (CAPS United), Ian Nyoni (Chapungu), Malvin Gaki (Chicken inn), Nigel Makumbe (ZPC Kariba), Ronald Chitiyo (CAPS United)
Clive Augusto (Chicken Inn), Evans Katema (Dynamos), Prince Dube (Highlanders), Aubriel Chirinda (Chicken Inn)