WARRIORS OUT OF CECAFA
Warriors caretaker coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa is disappointed with Zimbabwe’s withdrawal from the CECAFA tournament but remains optimistic of another chance to assess the local players as part of efforts to build a strong senior team.
ZIFA yesterday formally withdrew the Warriors from the East and Central Africa tournament citing security reasons due to the volatile political situation in the host country Kenya. The tournament is scheduled to run from December 2-16 and the Warriors had been invited as a guest nation at the competition.
Chidzambwa, who won the COSAFA Castle Cup with the Warriors for Zimbabwe’s record fifth time in July, had been relishing the opportunity of another successful excursion with senior team and adding another piece of silverware in ZIFA’s trophy cabinet. Crucially, the veteran coach, who is a member of the ZIFA High Performance Committee, had also been looking at using the CECAFA as a platform to assess more players as the Warriors look to build a string base from which to pick players for their African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign.
However, ZIFA said they had taken a precautionary measure to pull out of the tournament after wide consultations with the association’s key stakeholders. ZIFA, in a statement released by their communication and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela yesterday, said it was unfortunate that after wide consultations they were left with no option but to withdraw from the tournament reserved for the East and Central African bloc.
“Following wide-ranging consultations with all stakeholders, the Zimbabwe Football Association has resolved to withdraw its commitment to participate in the 2017 CECAFA Challenge Cup due to the security risk posed by the volatile situation in the host country, Kenya.
“As a result, ZIFA has immediately suspended all preparations related to the commitment made earlier, to participate as a guest nation at this year’s CECAFA tournament. ZIFA reiterates its commitment to fulfil all future tournaments and matches, provided the environment does not in any way risk the safety of participating teams. The withdrawal from such a prestigious tournament is unfortunate for us, the team, the nation and the tournament organisers, but the association had to make the complex decision in the best interest of all involved.
“ZIFA remains committed to its mandate of organising competitive matches for all national teams, at the same time ensuring the safety of everyone participating. The withdrawal from such a prestigious tournament is unfortunate for us, the team, the nation and the tournament organisers, but the association had to make the complex decision in the best interest of all involved. ZIFA remains committed to its mandate of organising competitive matches for all national teams, at the same time ensuring the safety of everyone participating.
“ZIFA is open to future similar engagements with CECAFA and other sub-regional bodies because such tournaments afford national teams with invaluable competitive game time. ZIFA unreservedly apologises to the tournament organisers, sponsors, the team, supporters and other stakeholders for all inconveniences caused by this sudden development.
“ZIFA wishes CECAFA the best in this year’s edition and future tournaments,” read the statement. But for Chidzambwa and a number of players including Chapungu skipper Collen Kwaramba, the withdrawal is a blow as it is a chance lost for them to contribute to the building of a strong Warriors side.
The ZPC Kariba coach had named a strong squad comprising the locally-based players with unattached forward Donald Ngoma the only foreign-based player who was until recently featuring for Tanzania’s Young Africans.
Chidzambwa’s side which had begun trooping into camp on Tuesday night had also included eight players who made it on the 2017 Soccer Stars Calendar earlier on the same day. The Warriors mentor said despite the setback he was aware that there would be a number of future assignments for which the senior team could regroup. ZIFA are also working on an international friendly between the Warriors and Zambia at the National Sports Stadium on December 23.
“We were looking forward to the tournament but this is something beyond our control. We can always look forward to another tournament. In football there is always another chance,” Chidzambwa said. Chidzambwa who was due to be assisted by Chicken Inn’s Rahman Gumbo and Dynamos coach Lloyd Mutasa had also wanted to start working on some of the grey areas he had noted on the Warriors such as the central defence. Last week Chidzambwa raised the red flag over the lack of good centre-backs in the country.
“When we talk of a good centre-back, we are looking at a player who is good with his head, can mark and has speed. A complete player in defence. If you look at players like Sadio Mane, they can only be contained by a good centre-back otherwise your team will get destroyed by such sleek players when you face them.
“At the moment we only have Costa (Nhamoinesu) to speak about, who is a very good centre-back. But age is no longer on his side, so we really need to unearth younger players, who might be very good in that position,” said Chidzambwa. Kwaramba is one of the players who impressed Chidzambwa during the just ended season and the coach had wanted to see how he fares in national colours.
But the Chapungu skipper Kwaramba will have to wait a little bit longer before he can make his national team debut. The Warriors had been drawn in Group B together with holders Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and South Sudan. But the political situation in Kenya has been uneasy following the inauguration of President Uhuru Kenyatta this week. Two people died when police clashed with opposition supporters in the city.
Meanwhile, the Young Warriors yesterday began their camp for the COSAFA Under-20 Championships which will run in Zambia from December 6 to 16. Prior to their camp the Young Warriors were training at their regional bases with coach Bekithemba Ndlovu presiding over the sessions in Bulawayo while those in the North Zone were working under assistant coach Mark Mathe in Harare.