THE Warriors will play Botswana in an international friendly match at Rufaro Stadium on February 6 after failing to nail down a match with North African opponents as per coach Klaus Dieter Pagels’ request.
BY WELLINGTON TONI
Pagels, who took over from Rahman Gumbo after the Warriors’ failure to qualify for Afcon 2013, will now get down to serious business against Botswana as he prepares his charges for a 2014 World Cup qualifier against Egypt on March 22.
While the match against the Zebras will be low key in terms of Pagels’ expectations, it is the only chance he has to assemble a new team from the Afcon and Asiagate ashes and give the players a run out before 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
He has a busy schedule ahead of him as the Cosafa Senior Challenge will also be played in July in Zambia while the 2014 African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifiers will also take place at the same time. Another World Cup game against Guinea is also scheduled for the winter.
A match against Malawi was also on the cards, but after the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) fired coach Kinnah Phiri last week, the match was put on ice allowing the Zebras to fill in the gap.
Zifa chief executive officer Jonathan Mashingaidze said on Thursday night: “Botswana has confirmed in writing the match for February 6 which will take place at Rufaro. There was also Malawi, but changes in their technical team put things on hold.”
A home match will spare Zimbabwe the blushes of travelling expenses as they need close to $150 000 for the match against Egypt. While the national association had threatened to pull out of the World Cup qualifiers, Minister of Mines and Mining Development Obert Mpofu has said funding will be made available.
The Warriors, then under Norman Mapeza, played a 0-0 draw at the UB Grounds in Gaborone against the Zebras last January and this will be the second match between the two neighbours in as many years.
Pagels has stated his desire to see most of the European-based players in his new team, meaning most of Zimbabwe’s players based in South Africa could find themselves sidelined.
“My philosophy needs European-based players as the backbone of the team. I was in Germany recently where I contacted my friends all over Europe who gave me a lot of information on all Zimbabweans playing in Europe. I also researched on the internet, so let me proudly say that I am now well-informed. At the moment I am not at liberty to name the players, but my ideal team is already there,” Pagels told our sister paper The Standard over the weekend.