Window closing for UK-based Warriors
By Ellina Mhlanga
The window appears to be closing for the Warriors to secure their United Kingdom based stars for the AFCON qualifiers next month.
Zimbabwe will take on Botswana and Zambia in two matches which will determine their quest for a place in Cameroon next year.
Defeat in both matches could see the Warriors being forced, to watch the Nations Cup finals, from a distance.
A victory over the Zebras, and failure by Zambia to beat African champions, Algeria, in the next round of matches, will see the Warriors booking a place at the AFCON finals, for the third straight time.
However, some complications have arisen.
The Warriors management team find themselves in corner and have been forced to delay the announcement of the squad for the two matches.
The announcement was initially scheduled for the first phase of the week.
However, the team officials need to first secure the guarantees, from the clubs, that the players will be released for the two assignments.
The window appears to be closing on England-based defender, Tendayi Darikwa, and midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, who are regulars for the side.
The Herald was the first to raise the alarm that, owing to complications brought about by Covid-19 regulations, there was a possibility the British-based players might be affected.
British authorities tightened their regulations, and entry into their country, from individuals, who would have passed through countries they listed under the red zone.
Those returning from the listed countries, will have to go into an airport hotel quarantine, for 10 days.
Zimbabwe is among those countries on the list.
Botswana and Zambia are also part of that list.
According to FIFA, the rules which normally force clubs to release players for national team matches, should not apply where players face mandatory quarantine of, at least five days, upon arrival in:
a) the location of the club which has an obligation to release the player to an association team or
b) the location where a representative team match is scheduled to take place; or
there is travel restriction to or from either locations (a. or b. above); and
a specific exemption from the relevant authorities relating to the above decision has not been granted to players of a representative team.
This has left a number of countries in a difficult position, when it comes to national teams’ assignments, as the AFCON qualifiers resume.
Indications were that the squad would be released on Tuesday, before it the national team management pushed the date to yesterday.
But, once again, nothing came up and national teams’ general manager, Wellington Mpandare, said they are still communicating with the UK-based clubs.
He also noted there is a huge possibility the UK-based players may not be available for the tie, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, although they are still making efforts to engage the clubs.
Mpandare noted that this, coupled with FIFA’s stance, has made it difficult for them as clubs were not willing to take the risk or see their players missing, one or two club games, on their return.
“The challenge we have is we are still communicating with the UK-based clubs because we are on their red alert,’’ he said.
“So, we are delaying (announcing the squad) because there is communication we have not yet received.
“But if we fail, well, we think tomorrow (today), or latest Friday, it should done (the team announcement).
“Indications are that players from UK-based clubs will not come…If a player comes to Zimbabwe, they will have to go into quarantine for 10 days, and they will miss one or two games and clubs can’t afford that.
“We are just hoping that something will happen that will be in our favour. If you look at us, Botswana and Zambia, we are the most affected.” Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia are battling for the remaining ticket to the AFCON finals, from Group H, which also features Algeria.
The Desert Foxes have already qualified.
Zimbabwe are second on the table, behind Algeria, with five points.
The Warriors have the best chance of securing a place in Cameroon.
Botswana are in third place, with four points. Zambia anchor the group, with three points. Any of the three countries, though, can still qualify.
The complications might also see the Algerian stars, like Riyad Mahrez, being barred from going to represent his country, in the final two matches against Botswana and Zambia. This will also be an advantage, to both Botswana and Zambia, who might find themselves playing against a weakened Desert Foxes side. The Herald.