UNITED STATES-BASED Tendai Jirira is set to live his dream of playing for the Warriors after he earned his first call-up ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Algeria next week.
BY HENRY MHARA
At 28, the defender had ruled out any hopes of ever representing Zimbabwe.
But all that changed last week when his Detroit City coach Trevor James broke the news to him that Zifa had requested for his services.On Sunday, he was named by Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić as part of the 24-man provisional squad for back-to-back matches.
In his first interview since the squad announcement, the lanky player expressed his delight in receiving his first senior team call-up.He revealed that he looked up to Warriors legends such as Peter Ndlovu.
“It’s a great feeling being called up,” a delighted Jirira told NewsDay Weekender from his base in Michigan.
“I am really humbled, excited and looking forward to it. I have always wanted to play for the national team, it has been my goal since I was young. This is really a dream come true.”
He was one of the surprise inclusion into the squad as Logarušić chose to stick with the majority of players that have been doing duty for the team in recent times.
The other players who got their first senior call-ups are Dynamos midfielder King Nadolo, the England-based duo of defenders Jordan Zemura and Adam Chicksen.
Scotland-based David Moyo will be looking to make his first competitive game for the Warriors having only featured in a friendly match before.
“I am grateful for getting this opportunity. My club was informed by Zifa about my call-up. My coach told me about the call-up and I was so happy. I never imagined it would happen this way,” Jirira said.
The Warriors travel to Algiers on Tuesday before hosting the African champions at the National Sports Stadium four days later.
Very little is known about Jirira locally as he never played any competitive football in the country before his move to the US on a scholarship.
Detroit City FC plays in the National Independent Soccer Association is a professional men’s soccer league in the United States. The league is in the third tier of American soccer.
However, the Marondera-born Jirira feels he is good enough to play for the national team. He says he wants to grab the opportunity given to him to play for the team with both hands.
He described himself as a very ambitious man who is ready to give his all for the country.
“Tendai Jirira is just a kid with a dream,” the former Prince Edward student said. “I will do my best to help the team. The team is great, we will achieve great things. I grew up in Zimbabwe playing soccer. I lived close to the National Sports Stadium looking up to players like Peter Ndlovu.”
The Friendly Academy product admitted that it would be a tough match, but one that Zimbabwe can win,
“We know they (Algeria) are a good team, but we can only focus on ourselves. To get the result, every player has to buy into the system that coach Logarušić will implement and we have to execute. We have to work together and make the nation proud. This is our legacy, we have to fight,” Jirira said.
The players are expected to start trooping into camp at the weekend ahead of their departure to Algiers aboard a chartered plane on Tuesday night.
Zimbabwe are second going into the third Group H qualifier with four points, two behind log leaders Algeria. Botswana with one point are third while Zambia anchor the group with zero points.
Two top teams from the group will qualify for the finals next year.Warriors squad:
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze, Talbert Shumba, Tatenda Mukuruva
Defenders: Jimmy Dzingai, Alec Mudimu, Jordan Zemura, Teenage Hadebe, Tendai Jirira, Divine Lunga, Tendai Darikwa, Adam Chicksen
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Butholezwe Ncube, Tafadzwa Rusike, Kuda Mahachi, Knowledge Musona,Terrence Dzvukamanja, King Nadolo, Marvellous Nakamba, Khama Billiart
Strikers: Tino Kadewere, David Moyo, Prince Dube