By Grace Chingoma
It’s now almost certain Zimbabwe international midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, is likely to miss next month’s AFCON qualifiers, after Aston Villa refused to grant Argentine goalkeeper, Emiliano Martínez, clearance.
Due to the tough Covid-19 regulations enforced by British authorities for entrance into their country, the release of the England-based players has become a cause for concern.
The United Kingdom have put 33 countries which they deem high risk areas in terms of coronavirus variants under a red list and Zimbabwe and Argentina are included in that bracket.
The Herald raised this issue earlier this week, with this newspaper saying chances were high that Nakamba and Tendayi Darikwa were unlikely to be released by their English clubs.
The tough regulations in the UK stipulate that all those returning from the red listed countries, including elite sportspersons, have to be quarantined for 10 days at an airport hotel, once they arrive on British soil.
Their clubs will then be forced to fulfil fixtures without their services, until they complete their quarantine period.
Although, Nakamba’s position has not been officially communicated, by Villa, as of yesterday, ZIFA are already bracing for the worst.
The midfielder told the national association that he was waiting for clearance from his club, and until he gets that, he could not provide any confirmation of his availability.
However, his teammate, goalkeeper Martinez, has already been told by Villa that he will be barred from flying for national duty with Argentina for the international matches set for next month.
The Warriors technical team were yesterday forced to delay announcing the team, which will travel to Gaborone on March 22, for the penultimate match of the qualifiers, before hosting Zambia a week late, in the final round of fixtures.
Warriors team manager, Welly Mpandare, said they will announce their squad by Tuesday after securing confirmation from all the clubs over the weekend.
“I am still waiting for club’s responses. We are on the UK red list and FIFA has also given the club’s the power to reject the call-ups if the players are going to be affected by quarantine rules upon their return from national duty,’’ said Mpandare.
“I have been in touch with the players and their clubs, and Nakamba or his club, will inform us of the next move, but Martinez has already been denied permission.
“Of course, these are key player,s but there is nothing we can do about the situation.
“But, nevertheless, the coaches came up with a squad of 30 players.
“The reason why we have delayed announcing the squad is that we are waiting for the clubs to confirm by weekend.
‘’We will announce the squad on Monday or Tuesday, once we have received all the confirmations.”
From the Warriors squad which was called up for duty against Algeria, four players –Nakamba, Darikwa, Jordan Zemura and Adam Chicken – came from the United Kingdom while David Moyo came from Scotland.
Defender Alec Mudimu has since moved to the Turkish league.
Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarrusic, provided a hint about the team he selected for the crucial qualifiers.
The Croat recently told The Herald he has included some players, from the CHAN squad which went to Cameroon.
The bulk of the players are Under-23.
“We have also included some players, from the squad which we had at the CHAN tournament in Cameroon, most of them are Under-23 players.
“The young players will be part of the squad, as we start preparing them for huge national assignments.’’
While Loga did not name the players, he shed some light when he praised the young players who featured in the last CHAN Group A match, against Mali.
The Warriors lost that dead rubber, 0-1, while the West Africans went all the way to reach the final of the tournament, where they lost to champions Morocco.
“The youngsters, who I played in our CHAN last match against Mali, put in a good shift,’’ said Loga.
‘’We lost to one of the tournament favourites but the boys really worked hard.’’
The Under-23 players, including goalkeeper Nelson Chadya, Andrew Mbeba, Shadreck Nyahwa and even Farawo Matare, impressive Loga.
“This is the future of the national team.”
He also revealed he has kept faith with most of the regulars, who featured for the Warriors, in the back-to-back AFCON qualifiers against the Desert Foxes.
“Save for a few names, the rest of the players we are calling for the double assignments, against Botswana and Zambia, are those who played the back-to-back ties against Algeria last year.”
Zimbabwe are in second place, on five points, a single point ahead of Botswana, with Zambia bottom of the table.
Any of the three countries can still book the ticket to accompany the Algerians to the AFCON finals.
Loga’s men were beaten in Algiers before forcing a come-from-behind 2-2 draw at the National Sports Stadium, four days later, in their last two qualifiers. The Herald