Willard Katsande has revealed the influence that the team’s coach, Sunday Chidzambga, had in his decision to come out of international retirement, after the Kaizer Chiefs midfielder was named in the veteran coach’s 21-member squad for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier away to Liberia next month.
BY HENRY MHARA
The midfield enforcer quit Zimbabwe soon after the country’s participation at the Afcon finals in Gabon in January last year, where he captained the team.
Katsande (32) did not give reasons for his decision back then, although it was claimed the retirement was due to a frosty relationship between certain squad members and Zifa president Philip Chiyangwa.
Speaking to NewsDay Sport yesterday, Katsande hinted there was, indeed, bad blood between him and the Zifa leadership, which he said has since been resolved.
“There are a lot of things I considered before deciding to come out of retirement. I had a chat with Zifa president (Chiyangwa) and coach (Chidzambga), and everything was ironed out. We are on the same page now, and I’m ready to represent my country again. They made me realise that I still have a lot to offer to the country,” he said.
“The supporters that I have met and those I interact with on social media have been encouraging me to rethink my decision. It was not a hard decision to make, because I have always wanted to represent my country.
“Since I was a child, my dream was to play for the national team, and I remember I used to emblazon names of my national team heroes on the back of my shirts when I was growing up.”
He added: “Even my mother before she died, told me that I should go back to the national team, so I’m fulfilling her wish and I’m sure she is happy now.
There are a lot of people I have been speaking to, and when I retired (from international football), the chairman of Kaizer Chiefs (Kaizer Motaung), and legend Irvin Khoza said I should go back to the national team because I still have a lot to offer, so those are some of the things I considered before reaching this decision.
“I’m happy to be back. I’m really glad when the coach shows how important you are to the team. To be picked among millions of Zimbabwean players to represent the country, means a lot. It’s special, so whatever happened in the past should remain in the past. I don’t want to look much into that. We live for now and the future. I’m ready to represent the country and help achieve the team’s goals.”
Katsande was one of the four senior Warriors players, together with Nyasha Mushekwi, Matthew Rusike and Cuthbert Malajila, who were blacklisted from the Warriors for allegedly inciting a protest over non-payment of bonuses in the build-up to the Gabon finals.
They were fingered as the instigators of a revolt that saw players snub a send-off dinner that had President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the guest of honour, just before the team’s departure for the Gabon finals.
While the quartet were allowed to play at the tournament, where they all featured prominently for the team, Zifa later allegedly ordered then coach Norman Mapeza not to include them in future national team assignments.