By Ricky Zililo
Some FC Platinum players are expected to be part of the locally-based players that will make up the Warriors’ Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers’ provisional squad.
Faced with the possibility of going for the two crunch Afcon qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia without United Kingdom-based Warriors, the national team technical department has identified locally-based players to replace them.
Due to recent measures aimed at preventing the spread of the new Covid-19 variant, the UK placed Zimbabwe and Botswana among 17 African countries perceived as the virus’ red zone.
This means chances of having the UK-based Warriors’ contingent of midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, the defending trio of Tendayi Darikwa, Zemura Jordan and Adam Chicksen as well as striker David Moyo flying in for the games against Botswana (away) and Zambia (home) are minimal.
The Warriors are second in the qualifiers’ Group H with five points from four games and will play against third-placed Botswana in the first match on March 22 and then host Zambia at the National Sports Stadium on March 30.
By yesterday, UK football clubs were yet to respond to Zifa’s letters requesting for the release of national team players, resulting in the delay in announcing the Warriors squad for the Afcon qualifiers.
Warriors general manager Wellington Mpandare said a decision will be made in the next 24 hours whether to include or exclude UK-based players in the provisional squad.
“We are still waiting for clubs in the UK to respond to our letters. As you know, footballers from Argentina and Portugal playing in the UK are not going for international matches because their countries were included in the red zone. We’re also preparing for the worst and a decision will be made in the next 24 hours,” said Mpandare.
He indicated that they will name a “big squad” that includes local players.
Young defenders, Highlanders’ Andrew Mbeba and Shadreck Nyahwa of Bulawayo Chiefs, who had good performance at the Chan tournament in Cameroon, might be included in the squad.
In the absence of Nakamba, South Africa-based Danny “Deco” Phiri, who missed the November back-to-back Afcon assignments due to injury, could make a return to the Warriors after returning to full fitness.
Phiri has been a regular starter for Golden Arrows since being certified fit.
Striker Knox Mutizwa, also a regular starter for Golden Arrows, could also make a return to the national team after being overlooked for the Algeria games. The Chronicle