By Grace Chingoma
Marvelous Nakamba has become the first Warriors player to be barred by his club, from the remaining two 2021 AFCON qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia, later this month.
The influential midfielder will not feature in the decisive matches after Aston Villa chose to stop him from flying home for the two make-or-break matches.
Although he was named, in the bloated 38-man squad, for the two matches, there were fears Nakamba would not be allowed to fulfil those assignments.
The Herald exclusively revealed, on February 18, that the three-nation battles, featuring Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana, for a ticket to the AFCON finals, could be influenced by tough Covid-19 regulations, enforced by British authorities, for entrance into their country.
The Warriors travel to Gaborone, for a date against the Zebras, on March 22, in the penultimate match of the qualifiers, before hosting Chipolopolo, a week later, in the final round of fixtures.
One ticket, to accompany African champions Algeria to Cameroon, is at stake when the curtain comes down, in the qualifiers, and any of the three countries could secure it.
However, the decision by British authorities, to tighten entrance into their country, from those who would have passed through a list of countries, including Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia, is now having a decisive impact on the duel for the sole ticket.
Elite sports-persons, who in the past were exempted from having to satisfy the requirements, which apply to others, no longer enjoy that privilege, if they are coming from the flagged countries.
Just like everyone, they will now be ordered to undergo a 10-day quarantine, at an airport hotel, which cost £1 750.
While the cost is insignificant, especially for someone like Nakamba, the inconvenience, which comes with being forced to stay in a quarantine at an airport hotel, for 10 days, is a problem for his club.
Villa would rather have the midfielder, featuring for them, in their chase for European football, than being quarantined in a hotel.
Yesterday, the Birmingham club advised the Warriors team management Nakamba would not be released for national duty this month.
It’s also now likely that defender Tendayi Darikwa, another regular in the team who plays in the English Championship, will be barred from reporting for duty.
Jordan Zemura, David Moyo and Admiral Muskwe also face a similar fate while Brendan Galloway is battling a serious knee injury.
Zemura has already told The Herald he faces a complex situation.
Algeria have two regulars, star forward Riyad Mahrez, who plays for Manchester City, and tricky midfielder, Said Benrahma, who is on the books of West Ham, who could also be affected.
With the Algerians having already qualified, for the AFCON finals, the Desert Foxes probably don’t need to risk their two stars for the matches against Botswana and Zambia.
For the Warriors, this is also bad news, since the weakened Desert Foxes might also help the cause of both Zambia and Botswana.
Galloway’s call-up has raised eyebrows after revelations that the defender, who was left out of Luton Town’s 25-man squad to complete the remainder of the English Championship campaign, has been struggling with a serious knee injury.
Galloway last featured for Luton Town, on January 9, in their 1-0 win over Reading in an FA Cup third round match.
A proposed move to League One side, Shrewsbury Town, during the January transfer window, collapsed.
He will now leave Luton Town at the end of the season. “He’s still injured at the minute so it’s been very, very frustrating for Brendan,” Luton manager, Nathan Jones, told thelutonian.com, two weeks ago.
“It’s been a frustrating process and I don’t want to comment too much because I don’t understand what’s happened at times.
“But, Brendan will continue to do his rehab with us and then we’ll find a new club in the summer.
‘’Obviously, he’s outside the 25, he’s not featured and he’s been very unfortunate with his injury before I came and apparently he’s not recovered from those.
“We will do our due diligence with him, he’s a good kid, no problem, and then he’ll pursue his career elsewhere, when the time’s right.”
There was some good news for the Warriors, at the weekend, after infuential skipper, Knowledge Musona, returned to action and featured 70 minutes for Belgian side, KAS Eupen, in the Jupiler League.
Musona, who is on loan at the Pandas from Belgian giants Anderlecht, was injured on January 8. But, the 30-year-old bounced back at the weekend as he helped his team claim a 2-0 victory, on the road, against Saint Truiden.
Musona was later replaced by Jens Cools in the 70th minute.
The skipper is likely to get more action, inside a few days, with the Pandas meeting Gent in a mid-week Belgian Cup quarter-final match.
They then host Leuven on Saturday
Before the lay-off, Musona had scored four goals, and contributed two assists, on his second loan spell at the club, this season.
Yesterday, Belgium-based former Warriors and Saint Truiden wingback, Cephas Chimedza, said Musona’s return to action was good news for the country.
“Having Knowledge Musona back in action, after missing 10 league matches, is a massive boost for the squad,’’ said Chimedza.
‘’His team is doing a decent job, very much safe, no relegation worries.
“The team, without him, had gone six games without a win and his return coincided with a good 2-0 win against my ex-club.
‘’Both goals were scored while he was still on the field. “He plays now, as a number 10, and is the playmaker of this team. All their attacks go through him.
‘’Most teams have even resorted to having someone follow him, because they know they would have minimised, the Eupen threat.’’
Chimedza said Musona remains a very influential member of the Warriors.
“We all know what he is capable of and, by the time we play the qualifiers, he will be in an even better shape.
“He played 70 minutes, which is expected for anyone coming back from a long lay-off and, being thrust direct into the first XI, shows his importance to the team.
“I am happy he is back, and having some minutes, before the joining up with the squad,” said Chimedza.
Musona has already told the Warriors technical team that “he is happy to do duty for my country as long as I am fit”.
The skipper also told the Warriors fans, during an interactive session on social media, he would be available for the final two games.
His goals, in the last two AFCON qualifiers, were crucial in taking the Warriors to Gabon, in 2017, and Egypt, in 2019. The Herald