The Warriors camp is in a crisis as injury problems deepened, with the team’s poster boy Khama Billiat being the latest to pick an injury, which will rule him out of the crucial Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G qualifier match away to Congo Brazzaville on Sunday.
Billiat played the entire match for his South African club Kaizer Chiefs in their 1-0 loss to SuperSport in the MTN Cup semi-final on Saturday night, but it is understood he was carrying a hamstring injury, which he aggravated in that game.
Warriors manager Wellington Mupandare yesterday said the star was likely to be out for some weeks as a result of the injury, effectively ruling him out for the weekend trip, where the Sunday Chidzambga team will be looking for a win to enhance their chances of qualifying for the Afcon finals to be held in Cameroon next year.
The match will be played at the Massamba Debate Stadium in Brazzaville.
“It’s a huge blow for the team. I have been communicating with his team and him (Khama) as well, and I’m told he has a hamstring problem. He played on Saturday, but he had to pass a late fitness test, but after the game, the hamstring was tight. He is out of the match and it’s very unfortunate. We have invited him to come for our own assessment, but from the information I gathered, it’s not looking pleasing,” Mupandare said.
The timing of the latest blow is terrible for the Warriors, who are expected to start camp today, but with a heavily depleted squad.
From the 28-member squad that was invited for camp, only 24 are expected to arrive today after injuries and withdrawals ravaged the squad, with a number of players picking injuries at their respective foreign clubs.
Belgium-based Marvelous Nakamba, Costa Nhamoinesu of Sparta Praha in Czech Republic and Ovidy Karuru of Amazulu, three regular and senior players, have all been struck off the provisional squad due to injuries.
Winger Leeroy Mavunga withdrew from the squad last week to go for trials with Portuguese league side Clube Desportivo Feirense.
British-born Zimbabweans Tendayi Darikwa and Adam Chicksen and Germany-based Kelly Lunga, who were also included in the squad, have also been ruled out after Zifa failed to secure passports for them.
The Sports ministry and the President’s Office were said to be seized with the matter in trying to naturalise the trio so they are able to play for the Warriors in official matches, but it appears nothing has materialised yet.
Mupandare, who has been working hard to have the players available, has given up hope after his efforts were frustrated by the government.
He said time constraints would not allow them to make any replacements or additions to the squad.
“They are not coming. Nothing is moving and I have given up. We will have to concentrate on those available,” Mupandare said.
Earlier additions to the squad include United States-based Lucky Mkosana, who plays for Penn FC in the second-tier division. He was called in after the withdrawal of Mavunga.
Other players that have been included, who had been initially omitted, are Ronald Pfumbidzai, Danny, Liberty Chakoroma and Knox Mutizwa.
Chidzambga was also forced not to include one of the team’s stars, Tino Kadewere, who recently moved to France, due to an injury.
Camp starts today and Tanzania-based Tafadzwa Kutinyu is already in the country, while the bulk of the players, including skipper Knowledge Musona, are expected to jet in today.
Wales-based Alec Mudimu is expected in the country tomorrow.
Mupandare said China-based striker Nyasha Mushekwi, who played 75 minutes on Saturday for his side Dalian Yifang, is also expected in camp tomorrow.
Zimbabwe currently top group G with three points, but on goal difference, following their 3-0 win over Liberia in their opening qualifier.
The group also consists of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who are second on the standings by a goal difference after their 3-1 win over Congo Brazzaville in the opening fixture of the campaign.
With two top teams in the group set to qualify for the Afcon finals next year, a win for the Warriors in Brazzaville will put them on the brink of qualification.
Warriors provisional squad
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane), Donovan Benard (Ngezi), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu)
Defenders: Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Alec Mudimu (Cefn Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Byron Madzokerere (Yadah)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Talent Chawapiwa (Baroka), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando), Lucky Mkosana (Penn FC), Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
Strikers: Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Evans Rusike (SuperSport), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Tinotenda Chibharo (FK Sloboda Uzice)
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