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Goalkeeping nightmare stalks Warriors preps

Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, faces a fresh headache in the crucial goalkeeping department which has become an Achilles Heel for the team.

Young Warriors goalkeeper Martin Mapeza left Vélez CF to join Zamora CF in Spain
Young Warriors goalkeeper Martin Mapeza left Vélez CF to join Zamora CF in Spain

Only two goalkeepers, Talbert Shumba and Martin Mapisa, have been playing competitively, over an extended period, in the past month.

Should one of them get injured, it will provide Loga with a mountain to climb.

Another goalkeeper, Elvis Chipezeze, has also been playing for Baroka, in South Africa, in the last few weeks.

But, he remains an unpopular choice, among some of the national team’s fans.

Loga did not name his squad, for the Afcon qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia, as promised yesterday.

Zifa are still battling to secure confirmation that some of the team’s key players, based in Europe, will be available for national duty.

The squad announcement has been deferred to today.

There is a ray of hope that the engagements, which have been taking place between Zifa and the clubs, could bear fruit.

But, Loga’s headache is not only limited to the likely absence of Marvelous Nakamba, Tendayi Darikwa and the rest of the England-based entourage.

It has emerged his goalkeeping department has been giving the Croatian gaffer a few challenges.

Zambia-based Shumba has been enjoying regular game time, over an extended period, at his club.

The Nkana FC goalminder was in Morocco over the weekend, where his club progressed to the Caf Confederation Cup group stages, with a 2-1 aggregate win over TAS de Casablanca.

Although Nkana lost the match 1-2, with Shumba in goals, the Zambian club had put themselves in a strong position, by winning the home leg 2-0.

They will meet two other North African sides, Raja Casablanca of Morocco, and Pyramids of Egypt, in Group D.

Spain-based Mapisa is considered by some as the team’s next regular goalkeeper but, with little international experience, it’s unclear if Loga will trust him for the two big matches.

He has been playing for his Spanish Segunda B side, Zamora CF, in that country’s third-tier league.

United States-based goalkeeper, Tatenda Mkuruva, who missed the last match against Algeria due to travel restrictions, could also face similar challenges.

The local goalkeepers who travelled to Cameroon, for the Chan finals, Ariel Sibanda, Nelson Chadya and Simba Chinani, are inactive.

Their last taste of action was at that tournament where the Warriors fared dismally, being knocked out, after the group stages.

However, the Warriors coach is relieved his skipper, Knowledge Musona, has started light training and might be fit when Zimbabwe travel to Gaborone next month.

Musona was injured, during the first weekend of last month, while in action in the Belgian Pro League for his side, KAS Eupen.

Before the injury, the Warriors skipper had scored four goals, and contributed two assists, in his second loan spell at the club, this season.

Musona, on loan at the Pandas from Belgian giants Anderlecht, has been working hard to repay the faith invested in him by the club’s manager, Benat San José.

Yesterday, he informed Warriors manager, Wellington Mpandare, he has started light training.

The technical team said they didn’t want to put him under pressure, as he works his way back to full recovery.

“We are still engaging the clubs in England. There are some engagements taking place and, maybe, the squad will be announced tomorrow (today),” said Mpandare.

“Knowledge is now training and we are hoping that, by the time the team goes into camp, he will be fit.

“He has started light training, but we don’t want to put him under any pressure, together with Khama Billiat.”

Zifa spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, said they will consult to try and establish if they might be need for a limited number of fans for the last qualifying match against Zambia at the National Sports Stadium.

Last year in November, Zifa applied for permission to have fans in the stadium, during the Caf Champions League between FC Platinum and Mozambican side Costa do Sol.

Although they applied for 2000 fans, they were only allowed 200 people in the stands.

Back then, the Covid-19 cases in the country had fallen sharply, only to begin rising a month later.

“We stand guided by Caf and the Government policy, which at the moment is that there should be zero fans during the matches.

“We will consult with the relevant committees in the association,” said Gwesela.

Last week, Sports Minister, Kirsty Coventry, made it clear that although sport might return soon, there would be no room for fans until the health situation in the country improves.

“Now, spectators, we all know that it would be a very different story, so, I wouldn’t expect them to be in a stadium anytime soon,” said Coventry. The Chronicle