Nyasha Mushekwi has been included in the Warriors squad to face Congo-Brazzaville next month in what presents an embarrassing climbdown by Zifa, who last year banned the striker from national team assignments for alleged “in-discipline”.
BY HENRY MHARA
The in-form China-based striker was one of the four senior Warriors players, together with then captain Willard Katsande, Mathew Rusike and Cuthbert Malajila, who were banned from the Warriors for allegedly inciting a protest over non-payment of bonuses in the build-up to the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals played in January last year.
They were fingered as the instigators of a revolt that saw players snub a send-off dinner that had President-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa as the guest of honour, just before the team’s departure for the Gabon finals.
The Warriors consequently missed their first flight to Gabon, as players insisted on getting their bonuses first, and only agreed to travel after thrashing out a payment plan with the association.
While the quartet were allowed to play at the tournament, where they all featured prominently for the team, Zifa later ordered then coach Norman Mapeza not to include them in future national team assignments.
Katsande has since retired from international football, vowing never to play for the Warriors again until the current Zifa leadership led by Philip Chiyangwa has left office.
But in a major U-turn, Mushekwi’s name has been included in a Warriors provisional 28-member list that was released yesterday for the Afcon qualifier away to Congo-Brazzaville next month.
With the striker in prolific form in the Chinese Super League, where he is rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s best players in the likes of teammate Yannick Carrasco, Brazilians Paulinho, Oscar and Hulk, and Argentine Ezequiel Lavezzi, it had become hard, if not embarrassing for Zifa, to continue ignoring the 30-year-old.
Mushekwi has scored seven goals in 10 appearances so far, including a hat-trick last week when his Dalian Yifang FC side beat Guangzhou R&F 3-0 in a league match. He did not feature in the team’s defeat to log leaders Beijing Guoan yesterday.
He is the current Warriors star playing at the highest level of world football, with the revamped Chinese league ranked fifth-highest of any professional association football leagues, behind La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga and Serie A.
It was unclear yesterday if Mushekwi would heed the invite, with reports suggesting that his problems with Zifa go beyond the dinner snub fiasco.
Sources told NewsDay Sport that Mushekwi doesn’t see eye-to-eye with a prominent Zifa figure over the striker’s ex-wife. He is one of the big name players included in Sunday Chidzambwa’s squad for the Afcon qualifier trip to Congo-Brazzaville on September 9.
Captain Knowledge Musona, who scored a hat-trick in the Group G opening qualifier against Liberia last year, leads the list which also has other team’s mainstays such as Costa Nhamoinesu, Marvelous Nakamba and Khama Billiat.
British-born Zimbabweans Tendayi Darikwa and Adam Chicksen of Nottingham Forest and Bradford City, respectively, have also been included in the squad.
Zifa is currently helping in the process of naturalising the duo, who currently hold British passports.
New faces on the squad list are Tinotenda Chibharo, who plays for Serbia league side Fk Sloboda Uzice and Kelly Lunga, who is based in Germany.
Chidzambwa has also called the bulk of the players who were part of the squad that won the Cosafa Cup in July. Ovidy Karuru, who is recovering from an injury sustained in the tournament, leads the group which also has stars such as George Chigova, Talent Chawapiwa, Marshal Munetsi, Terrence Dzvukamanja and Evans Rusike. Striker Tinotenda Kadewere, who recently made a move to France, misses out due to an injury.
Zimbabwe currently top Group G after their comprehensive win over Liberia.
After the Congo-Brazzaville match, the Warriors will play the Democratic Republic of Congo during the second week of October, while their trip to Liberia comes in the second week of November.
Warriors provisional squad
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane), Donovan Benard (Ngezi), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu)
Defenders: Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (Cefn Druids AFC), Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague), Teenage Hadebe (Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Adam Chicksen (Bradford City), Byron Madzokerere (Yadah)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brudge), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Talent Chawapiwa (Baroka), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah)
Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Evans Rusike (SuperSport), Kelly Lunga (SC Bonner), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Tinotenda Chibharo (FK Sloboda Uzice)