Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambga’s hopes of using some of the England-born Zimbabwean players for the decisive Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Congo Brazzaville could have suffered a major blow after it emerged this week that none of the players he was targeting had secured Zimbabwean passports.
BY HENRY MHARA
Chidzambga has publicly stated his desire to have the likes of Macauley Bonne, Andy Rinomhota, Adam Chicksen and Kelly Lunga — all born in England — naturalised so that they could feature for Zimbabwe against Congo Brazzaville on March 24 at the National Sports Stadium.
Zimbabwe needs at least a point from the Group G qualifier to secure a ticket to the Afcon finals, set for Egypt in June.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare — who leads the initiative to tap into talent emerging from the diaspora community — said despite the players having committed to pursue their international career with Zimbabwe, they were yet to submit the required documents so that they could get Zimbabwean passports.
“We have done our part from this end and all we are waiting for now is for them to submit their papers to the Zimbabwe embassy in London so that they can be processed,” he said.
“We have created a good relationship with the embassy and the Registrar-General’s Office here, so as soon as the required papers are received, they will be processed quickly, just like what happened with Tendayi Darikwa’s,” Mupandare said.
Bonne, Rinomhota, Chicksen and Lunga are some of several foreign-born players the Warriors’ technical team has identified to infuse into the national team.
Bonne and Chicksen, both born in England to Zimbabwean parents, have previously played for the Warriors in friendly matches, but will need Zimbabwean passports to feature for the team in a competitive game.
Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa and Wales-based Alec Mudimu, who were also born in England, are already part of the Warriors’ Afcon squad after acquiring their Zimbabwean passports through the embassy in London.
With the decisive match just less than two months away, it appears the Warriors’ technical team are running out of time.
What is encouraging, though, is that the players have shown willingness to play for Zimbabwe, and might soon be following on the footsteps of their colleagues, Darikwa and Mudimu, who chose the Warriors over England.
Mudimu has been an integral part of the Warriors squad, and helped the team win the Cosafa Cup in South Africa.
He has played in all but one match in the Afcon campaign, missing the home match against the Democratic Republic of Congo due to suspension.
Darikwa featured in two Afcon qualifiers, missing the last match away to Liberia, where Zimbabwe lost 1-0, their only defeat of the campaign.
Chidzambga is likely to name his squad for the Brazzaville clash in early March and is expected to retain most of the players who have been doing duty in the campaign.
The big worry, though, for the veteran gaffer, is that most of the players were either struggling to get game time at their respective clubs, or have lost form terribly.
Chidzambga said he would be monitoring the involvement of his players at the clubs and might be forced to make some adjustments to the squad if some of the players continued to struggle for game time.
Midfielder Kuda Mahachi was dropped against Liberia due to lack of game time at Orlando Pirates, and he has done little since then to warrant a recall to the national team.
Meanwhile, Belgium-based Warriors striker Knowledge Musona was diagnosed with chicken pox, which saw him miss a league match against Zulte-Waregem at the weekend. The disease is expected to keep him on the sidelines for a couple of weeks.
Musona joined Belgian minnows KSC Lokeren on loan from Anderlecht during the current January transfer window, and played the full 90 minutes in his debut last week, where the team lost 4-1 to AS Eupen.
Lokeren manager Glen de Boeck told Belgian publication Walfoot that: “He [Musona] has been sick since this week and it looks like he’s been suffering from chicken pox, so he’ll be out for a few weeks. But anyway, one player cannot make a difference in our struggle for survival.”
Reports from Belgium indicate that Lokeren, who anchor the log standings with 14 points from 24 games, paid a loan fee of around €500 000 for Musona’s move, which will run until June 30.