Nwankwo Kanu, one of Africa’s most decorated players, will lead a cast of international stars into Harare tonight for a fundraising dinner and tomorrow’s Benjani Mwaruwari Testimonial match set for the National Sports Stadium.
Kanu will line up with the legendary former Warriors skipper Peter Ndlovu, who passed on the armband to Mwaruwari, according to spokesperson for the organisers Tsaurai Muzanenhamo.
Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure is out after pulling a hamstring in the final English Premiership match against Queens Park Rangers while his brother Kolo and Didier Drogba are in direct communication with Benjani over their appearance.
“We are all aware that he is negotiating something for his future and we await an answer from Benjani. The chartered plane from Johannesburg should arrive anytime after 5pm tomorrow (today) and the biggest name there is Kanu, who will lead the cast,” Muzanenhamo said.
On Ndlovu, he said: “Peter is a friend of Benjani and he was very instrumental in his career and he will play in his team.”
The former Highlanders striker was not reachable for the better part of yesterday. Someone who answered his phone in the morning said he was busy with the junior players who are going to Poland for the VW Junior Masters tournament. Later in the afternoon, the phone was not being answered.
Kanu was a member of the Nigerian national team for 16 years from 1994 until 2010. He is a member of the Igbo ethnic group; his name, Nwankwo, means Baby boy born on Nkwo market day in the Igbo language.
Kanu has won a Uefa Champions League medal, a Uefa Cup medal, three FA Cup winners’ medals and two African Player of the Year awards, two BBC African Footballer of the Year awards among others.
He is also one of the few players to have won the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League, Uefa Cup and an Olympic gold medal. He holds the record for most substitute appearances in Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times. He is also a Unicef ambassador.
Tonight’s dinner is the launch pad for the Benjani Mwaruwari Foundation, which seeks to build a football academy in Bulawayo.
The stars, led by Benjani’s former teammate at Portsmouth Kanu, who will jet in with his family, arrive tonight and will go straight to the fundraising dinner.
By late yesterday afternoon, Zifa acting chief executive Joseph Mamutse was holed up at the Ministry of Home Affairs offices obtaining clearances for some of the players who need visas.
Acting Zifa president Ndumiso Gumede was also expected in Harare last night from his Inyathi farm in Matabeleland North. He will be the main man at the two events as head Cuthbert Dube, chief executive Jonathan Mashingaidze and board member (finance) Elliot Kasu are in Hungary for the Fifa Congress.
While the final list of starts expected will be known tonight, Arsenal midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong has confirmed he is also coming.
Frimpong told his half-a-million followers on Twitter: “I’m going to be supporting Benjani Mwaruwari on the 25th and 26th May. Zimbabwe here I come.”
Frimpong also posted a link to a YouTube video featuring top stars including Premier League Tottenham’s Emmanuel Adebayor and West Brom’s Peter Odemwingie – all confirming their participation.
Meanwhile, the Premier Soccer League has thrown its full weight behind the testimonial and the Warriors World Cup commitments, cancelling all league matches set for this and next weekend.
Said PSL chief executive Kennedy Ndebele in a statement yesterday: “This serves to advise that the Castle Lager PSL Week 10 fixtures scheduled for 26/27 May 2012 have been postponed. Please be further advised that there will be no midweek fixtures during the week beginning 28 May 2012 – 02 June 2012.
“The postponement has been necessitated by the call-up of players to the Zimbabwe National Team. The League would like to support the Benjani Mwaruwari Testimonial Match and also allow the Warriors enough time to prepare for the crucial matches scheduled for Sunday 03 June 2012 and Sunday 10 June 2012, respectively.”