The Warriors’ planned trip to Bulawayo yesterday was cancelled after only a handful of players turned up at the Zifa offices for Saturday’s international friendly football match against Botswana in Gaborone.
The players are now expected to assemble this morning and, according to Zifa communications manager Nicky Dhlamini, they are putting in place plans for the team to travel directly to Gaborone and cancel the Bulawayo excursion.
“The team will now meet tomorrow (today) and we are planning they travel straight to Gaborone. Only a few players turned up today (yesterday) and the coach felt it was not proper to travel in batches and late at night,” she said.
By 3:30pm yesterday, only about eight players had reported for duty at 53 Livingstone Avenue although there are indications that some players are deliberately snubbing the call-up which might force coach Norman Mapeza to change his plans.
He had included only seven local players — Washington Arubi, Cuthbert Malajila, Tapiwa Khumbuyani, Daniel Vheremu, George Chigova, Joel Ngodzo and Denver Mukamba — and might be forced to call on more players from the failed Cecafa Championship campaign in addition to the few international players available.
The AmaZulu pair of Carlington Nyadombo and Ramson Zhuwawo might grab this chance to make an impression on the coach.
As previously feared, Khama Billiat and Tafadzwa Rusike have been pulled out of the Saturday match as they travel to Holland with their club Ajax Cape Town for preparations for the second half of the Absa Premiership.
Zifa only wrote to Ajax yesterday requesting permission to use the duo, but the South African side pointed out that the national association had not followed the rules of the game for the release of players for international duty.
Clubs are supposed to be notified 15 days before any match.
On Monday, Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates and Golden Arrows pulled out their players from the South Africa national team which is due to face 2012 Africa Cup of Nations hosts Equatorial Guinea.
Warriors striker Nyasha Mushekwi, who plays for Sundowns, might find himself in the same situation if the Brazilians decide to pull the plug.
Meanwhile, Botswana national football team coach Stanley Tshosane says Saturday’s international friendly will be a competitive match despite his side having qualified for the 2012 African Cup of Nations finals.
The match takes place at the 8 000-seater UB Stadium in Gaborone at 1600hrs.
Tshosane spoke to NewsDay Sport from Rustenburg, South Africa, yesterday where his team is camping ahead of their maiden appearance in the Afcon finals. They depart for Gaborone tomorrow.
“We appreciate the opportunity we have been given by Zifa to play their national team. We have qualified for Afcon 2012 and they have not, but that does not mean we are better than Zimbabwe.
“I respect the Warriors very much and I am looking forward to a very competitive match on Saturday.
“I have 23 players with me doing intensive training and because of that there be light knocks here and there, but I think everybody will be available for the Saturday match,” Tshosane said.
They warmed up for the Saturday game with a 3-0 dismissal of Lesotho on December 22.
The last meeting between the two teams was in the 2009 Cosafa semi-final at Barbourfields Stadium which the Warriors won 2-1 to progress to the final where they thumped Zambia 3-1 to lift the trophy.
Tshosane was the coach of that side which lost at Barbourfields, but the Botswana Football Association kept him in charge and invested resources which eventually saw them qualify for the 2012 Afcon finals.
The Zebras are ranked 96th in the world and 23rd in Africa by Fifa.
Having never qualified for the World Cup nor Afcon since they started actively competing in 1994, they stunned Africa by being the first team to qualify for the Afcon finals on March 26, 2011 at the expense of perennial giants Tunisia from their group.
Before this, their sole accomplishment at Afcon was a 1-0 win over Madagascar during the 2002 qualifications
Under the keen eye of Tshosane who inherited the national whistle in 2008, the Zebras have been coaxed out of a coral that once saw them languish at a miserable rank of 134. By 2010, a mere two years later, they were ranked 67th.
Botswana started qualifications with an away victory against Tunisia – a bang heard around the continent. They subsequently won at home against Chad, Togo, and Tunisia again and drew both home and away fixtures with Malawi.
Their key players are Jerome Ramatlhakwana, goalkeeper Modiri Marumo (Bay United), Mogogi Gabonamong (Supersport United) and arguably Botswana’s most famous player Dipsy Selolwane (Supersport United).
Botswana have been drawn against favourites Ghana, Mali and Guinea in