By Langton Nyakwenda
Zimbabwe coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic insists he will give priority to players committed to the Warriors’ cause, amid indications there is friction between the gaffer and some of the United Kingdom-born players, popularly known as the British Brigade.
The Croat said he has spent the last few weeks having one-on-one discussions with players he is targeting to use for the back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against continental champions Algeria next month.
Although Loga refused to reveal the names of players whose commitment he is questioning, The Sunday Mail Sport has established that one of them is Queens Park Rangers forward Macauley Bonne.
The former Charlton Athletic striker, who has only featured for Zimbabwe in two friendly matches, has once again ruled himself out of the Warriors squad to play Algeria.
Loga has also spoken to Nottingham defender Tendai Darikwa, Reading player Andy Rinomhota, Kundai Benyu (Wealdstone), Adam Chicksen (Notts County), and left-back Jordan Zemura, who is rising through the ranks at Championship side AFC Bournemouth.
“I don’t normally discuss my players in newspapers, so I can’t tell the names of those players who are not interested.
“What I can tell you is that I have talked to over 90 percent of the players I want to use against Algeria and some of them do not want to play,” Loga said yesterday.
“Some of them do not even respond to my messages, while others are giving lame excuses. You have to be proud to play for your country. If you have doubts then you are not welcome.
“We are not going to beg anyone . . . We do not want players with no desire to play for their country. I can confirm that a few players didn’t show desire and we are looking elsewhere.
“A player has got to have respect for the country where his parents were born or where he was born, simple,” Loga said.
Bonne, whose father hails from Harare’s suburb of Arcadia, was born in Ipswich and made two appearances for Zimbabwe in friendlies before his Warriors career was disturbed by some paperwork issues.
He then got his Zimbabwean passport last year, but it seems the QPR striker simply doesn’t want to play for the Warriors.
The Sunday Mail Sport also gathered that Loga had some issues with Zemura, but the Bournemouth defender has now reaffirmed his commitment to the Warriors cause.
Former Celtic midfielder Benyu has been sorting out his expired passport and is available, as are Darikwa and Chicksen.
In a departure from what has been the norm, where the team manager would normally do call-ups and speak to players prior to camp, Loga prefers to do things personally.
He believes such a move would help quell “unnecessary speculation” that the coach’s selection is being influenced by external forces.
“I am in touch with all the players personally. I want to be the man who will call up the player, the one who talks to the player, then after that, the office and manager can take over,” Loga said.
“I am doing this so that I can get to know how the players feel about playing for Zimbabwe. There is a need to escape speculation that somebody is influencing me. There has been speculation that the technical director, ZIFA officials, and some agents are influencing my selection, but that is not true at all.
“I do the call-up after consulting my assistant coaches.
“I have also heard, and I am not sure if it is true, that some people were calling foreign-based players asking for money, so to escape this situation, it is the coach who is calling players personally,” Loga said.
It is now 18 days before Zimbabwe plunge into the biggest battle of their 2022 AFCON Group H qualifying campaign.
They visit the Desert Foxes in Algiers on November 12 before hosting the African champions at the National Sports Stadium four days later.
Zimbabwe, who are second to Algeria in Group H, remained static at number 111 in the FIFA world rankings released on Friday.
Algeria, who are unbeaten in all competitions in their last 20 matches, are third in Africa and 30th in the world.
The North Africans’ last defeat was a 0-1 loss against Benin in a 2019 AFCON qualifier on October 16, 2018.
Since then, Riyad Mahrez and company have been sweeping all before them, including handing Zambia a 5-0 hiding in their opening Group H campaign. The Sunday Mail