The journey begins


BY all standards, this has been a horrible week for the senior national football team, the Warriors.


After an impasse between Zifa and coach Kalisto Pasuwa on Monday and Tuesday, which was only diffused by the intervention of Sport minister Andrew Langa, the Warriors finally started training on Wednesday morning at Rufaro Stadium. They had two training sessions on that day and one in the morning on Thursday before their scheduled 1610hrs departure to Malawi for a Group L Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier at the Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.

They trained and broke for lunch to prepare for the journey.

Then came the bombshell: Money first or no trip! Then it was 3pm and check-in time had lapsed. The gates were to close at 3:30pm. But the players would not budge.

They were demanding $500 in appearance fees per player, for 18 of them that amounted to $9 000, plus their daily allowances seeing that they had been in camp since Tuesday evening and would only return home tomorrow.

The figures, though unconfirmed, stood at $30 per player during the Zimbabwe camp and $60 each day while in Malawi.

A source close to the developments said on Thursday night: “The money they are demanding is over $1 000 per player.”

Warriors team members prepare to depart for Malawi.
Warriors team members prepare to depart for Malawi.

Nine officials — Pasuwa and his two assistants, doctor and physiotherapist and head of delegation — are also entitled to payments.

But the issue was very simple: There was no money, Zifa is broke, the Sports and Recreation Commission and the government equally is broke.

An agreement was eventually reached around 8pm on Thursday night after meeting usual benefactor Cuthbert Dube at his residence in Groombridge. But the end result was a 605km journey by road to Malawi.

Dube promised to pay $42 000 by Monday to cover all their expenses while the government had originally chipped in with $6 000 to assist with air tickets for the aborted flight. As expected, there was no word from Zifa vice-president Omega Sibanda or board member — finance Bernard Gwarada on what assistance they had offered to the Warriors.

Sibanda had been installed as acting president in May after a group of councillors “axed” Dube and two board members — Fungai Chihuri and Tawengwa Hara — before the decision was overturned by Fifa. To show that there was serious government support, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa while officiating at a Highlanders function last Saturday in Bulawayo played a key role in persuading Pasuwa to continue with national duty while his situation was being looked into.

On Thursday night Prophetic Healing and Deliverance Ministries founder Walter Magaya gave $200 to each player and provided $1 800 for the bus, a coach from a local company Munorurama, which plies the Harare-Blantyre route. The team eventually departed at 1147am yesterday. But things were, again, not smooth sailing for the Warriors, as after the bus’ false start in Harare, it coughed to a stop near Mutoko later in the day.

Speaking during a short break after they had crossed the Nyamapanda border after the bus had been fixed, head of delegation Moses Chikoti said everything was under control.

“We are left with 240km to reach the other border, we will it make before they close. Everything is under control. We had a minor problem, but all is sorted now, the guys are having lunch and we will be on our way soon,” Chikoti told NewsDay Sport just around 3:35pm.

From Nyamapanda border to Zobwe, the next control which closes at 6pm, they had to deal with about 400km after which they had just 5km to the next border, Mwanza, the Malawian side, which does not close.

They could stretch their legs this morning and have a few minutes at the match venue before kickoff at 2:15pm, live on SuperSport 3.


While there is evident chaos in the Warriors camp, the chief executive officer of Football Association of Malawi (FAM) Sugzo Nyirenda has told the Malawian media that the controversy surrounding Zimbabwe’s trip to Blantyre is psychological to throw the hosts off balance.

“I have advised the players to give a deaf ear to everything that is surrounding Zimbabwe and focus on how they can collect maximum points to keep their hopes of Afcon alive. Whatever is being reported is psychological just to kill our focus as we mark the genesis of the journey to Gabon,” Nyirenda was quoted as saying in an interview with a Malawian radio station. With this in mind, battle lines are certainly drawn against a well-prepared Malawi side that won the Plate Championship against Zambia in the Cosafa Cup last month and also played and lost 2-1 to Egypt in an international friendly on Monday.

Pasuwa will bank on the experience of new skipper Willard Katsande, Belgium-based striker Knowledge Musona, Silas Songani who plays in Denmark and young Marvellous Nakamba who has played a cameo role in the Dutch league for his side Vitesse.

There is a huge toss for the number one jersey between Tatenda Mukuruva and Donovan Bernard — Pasuwa’s Under-23 stars who are also part of the team to play Comoros in the Chan qualifier next weekend.

In the back four, Patson Jaure could take the right-back position with Sweden-bound Ronald Pfumbidzayi on the left. Eric Chipeta and Teenage Hadebe are expected to be the twin centre-backs.

Katsande and Danny Phiri will provide defensive cover with Khama Billiat and Songani operating on the left and right flanks of the midfield, respectively.

Musona and Cuthbert Malajila have to get the goals up front. Kingston Nkhatha is another power player in the side.


Goalkeepers: Tatenda Mukuruva, Donovan Bernard

Defenders: Blessing Moyo, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Justice Jangano, Teenage Hadebe, Partson Jaure, Eric Chipeta

Midfielders: Willard Katsande, Wisdom Mutasa, Kuda Mahachi, Khama Billiat, Danny Phiri, Gerald Takwara, Marvelous Nakamba, Silas Songani

Strikers: Cuthbert Malajila, Knowledge Musona, Kingston Nkhatha


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