By Robson Sharuko
Benjani Mwaruwari says he has always regarded himself as a loyal servant of Zimbabwean football and a return to serve the Warriors again will be an honour for him.
The 43-year-old was on Wednesday named by the ZIFA board as the latest addition to the Warriors technical crew as one of the assistant coaches.
Zdravko Logarusic is the head coach while Tonderai Ndiraya and Lloyd Chitembwe are the other two assistant coaches.
ZIFA technical director, Wilson Mutekede, said the boosting of the Warriors’ coaching staff was an on-going process.
This will see more specialists, like dieticians, being recruited, depending on resources.
The association revealed Benjani’s appointment was with immediate effect.
This means the former Manchester City forward is now set to join the Warriors, when they regroup in Harare on Monday, for their opening 2022 World Cup Group G qualifiers.
Zimbabwe will host South Africa, at the National Sports Stadium, next Friday, before a date with Ethiopia, in Bahi Dar, four days later.
“The Executive Committee received a progress report, from the Technical and Development Committee, with regards to all matches played in 2021,’’ said ZIFA in their statement.
“The Exco resolved that the technical teams will remain unchanged.
“The Exco further resolved to augment the Warriors’ technical team by appointing Benjani Mwaruwari as an assistant coach.
“The appointment is with immediate effect.’’
Benjani recently attained a UEFA A Licence badge in Belfast, Ireland, declaring he was now ready to chart a new career path, in coaching.
He was in the same class with ex-professional footballers, Christopher Samba and Mark Hughes.
Yesterday, Benjani told The Herald, from his base in England, there were some areas which still need to be covered between the two parties.
However, he said an agreement had been reached in principle, for him to come on board.
“I don’t want to be seen to be saying a lot at this stage because there are still some issues, which we need to agree on, even though we have agreed we will work together,’’ Benjani said.
“We have been talking for some time now, and we have covered most of the ground and agreed on most of the issues, which shows the commitment from both parties.
“ZIFA have said they want this to work, because it’s about serving the country, and our national team, and it’s what I also want because the Warriors mean a lot to me.
“I don’t think I can say a lot, right now until we have cleared the small issues I am talking about but I also want to emphasise that I don’t believe anything will affect what we are trying to come up with.
“If everything goes according to plan, I could fly to Harare on Monday because ZIFA say they want me to join up with the team, ahead of the next round of matches.
“For now, all I can say is that I have always been a loyal servant of our football and doing that, in whatever capacity, will always be an honour for me.’’
Sources told The Herald, the plan would be for Benjani to monitor the Warriors players in Europe, where he would go and watch them play, talk to their club coaches and other key members of the supporting staff at their bases.
“The new direction taken by ZIFA means they have laid the foundation for training camps, to be held in Europe, for our players who are based on that continent, when opportunities arise, like during the international window for friendlies,’’ the sources said.
“Those camps, which will be under the guidance of the national team coaches, will also act as bonding exercises as they will also feature some of the new players, who would have been recruited, into the national team.
“This is a template that is used by many other African teams who have a lot of players in Europe, because it is cheaper to bring in the players, to a certain location there than to fly them back home.’’
Benjani quit international football in October 2010, after the Warriors were held to a goalless draw by Cape Verde in a 2012 AFCON qualifie, at the National Sports Stadium.
He was captain of the team, having taken the armband from Peter Ndlovu, after the 2006 Nations Cup finals.
“After the game I went to speak with (coach) Norman (Mapeza) and thanked him for giving me the chance to play in the game against Cape Verde and that I was sorry we couldn’t do enough to win the game and get the maximum points that we wanted,” said Benjani.
“I told him that I had come to the end of the road in as far as my international career was concerned, and from now onwards I would not be available for selection.’’
The build-up to that game had been dominated by some ugly incidents, in the Warriors camp, with Belgian coach, Tom Saintfiet, being imposed as head coach of the team by the ZIFA board, just days before the match against Cape Verde.
However, after conducting just one training session, Saintfiet was deported from this country, for working without a valid work permit. The Herald