BY HENRY MHARA
Wales-based Zimbabwean soccer player Alec Mudimu has been named the Warriors captain for the team’s World Cup preliminary qualifier against Somalia in Djibouti today.
The match starts at 5pm.
The towering defender is taking the leadership role in the absence of Knowledge Musona, who was omitted for this match because of an injury.
Ovidy Karuru and George Chigova, who used to deputise Musona, were also not selected into the squad by new Warriors coach Joey Antipas because they haven’t been playing for their South African league teams this season.
It is not clear who Antipas will choose as his permanent captain if he decides to strip Musona of the captaincy, but sources yesterday told NewsDaySport that the Chicken Inn gaffer had, in the meantime, settled for Mudimu.
The Cefn Druids ace is also set to lead the team in the return leg against Somalia at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo on Sunday.
The defender’s elevation marks a meteoric rise in his international career.
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Mudimu, who is also comfortable playing as a midfielder, a position he plays for his club, only got his first international call-up in March last year when he played in a Four Nations tournament in Zambia.
Two months later, he was called up to the Warriors squad for the 2018 Cosafa Cup in South Africa, and he played an important role as Zimbabwe went on to win the tournament, beating Zambia in the final.
His outstanding performances in that tournament convinced the then Warriors coach, Sunday Chidzambga, to include him in the squad for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers in Egypt in June this year. The 24-year-old played in all the qualifiers and helped the team qualify for the tournament finals.
He played the two matches at the Afcon finals, but his participation was cut short by an injury which saw him miss the last match. His absence was hugely felt as the team went on to concede four goals to crash out of the tournament.
Mudimu is one of the nine survivors from the squad that travelled to Egypt for the Afcon.
The others are goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, who has been retained despite making howlers that cost Zimbabwe at the Afcon Teenage Hadebe, Divine Lunga, Marshall Munetsi, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Thabani Kamusoko, Knox Mutizwa and Evans Rusike.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that Antipas was ordered by Zifa not to pick some players who were blacklisted by the association after the Afcon tournament, but most of the players that the coach left out were either injured or have not been playing at their clubs.
The “banned” players were allegedly instigators of a player mutiny that rocked the Warriors camp in Egypt when they refused to play in protest over unpaid allowances and bonuses.
Only Ronald Pfumbidzai has been playing regularly for his South African league side Celtic, but was snubbed.
The team’s poster-boy, Khama Billiat was called up, but dropped late due to an injury, while striker Tino Kadewere was blocked by his French club Le Havre after Zifa allegedly sent the request for the player late.
The two were replaced by Sipho Ndlovu and Mutizwa.
Leicester City forward Admiral Muskwe has been handed another chance to impress after he was called for today’s match. The striker failed to make the grade in the squad that travelled to the Afcon tournament in Egypt.
Mudimu and other foreign-based players travelled from their bases straight to Djibouti, while Antipas and his technical team and the local-based players flew out on Tuesday. All the members of the team were expected to have arrived in Djibouti by 6pm yesterday.
The Warriors team is expected to return home tomorrow.
If Zimbabwe beat Somalia as is expected, they will progress to the group stages involving 40 teams.
The 40 teams will then be split into 10 groups of four to play home and away round robin matches, with group winners advancing to the third and final qualifying rounds.
The 10 teams will be drawn against each other to play home and away matches, with the five winners advancing to represent Africa at the 22nd edition of the Fifa World Cup to be played in Qatar.
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze (Baroka) Talbert Shumba (Chapungu)
Defenders: Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor) Macclive Phiri (Highlanders) Peter Muduwa (Highlanders) Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC) Divine Lunga (Lamontville Golden Arrows)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims) Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United) Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United) Tichaona Chipunza (Chicken Inn) Phineas Bamusi (Caps United), Sipho Ndlovu (Chicken Inn)
Strikers: Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows) Clive Augusto (Maritzburg United) Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits) Admiral Muskwe (Leicester City) Evans Rusike (Supersport United)