BY HENRY MHARA
ZIFA has demanded France-based star Marshall Munetsi to report for camp after his club Reims refused to release him for the back-to-back 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Algeria.
The two teams clash in Algiers tomorrow before the return match at the National Sports Stadium on Monday.
However, the Warriors will go into the matches without one of their influential stars Munetsi, who pulled out of the ties due to an injury.
Reims claim that the defensive midfielder was injured despite playing the whole match in a 4-4 draw away to Lens on Sunday. He was supposed to travel soon after the match, but his club instead wrote to Zifa saying he could not make the trip.
Warriors general manager Wellington Mupandare said they had written back to Reims demanding that the French club releases the player so that he could be assessed by the national team doctors.
“We have asked them to release the player so that he can be assessed by our doctors this side,” Mupandare said.
Clubs especially from Europe have regularly clashed with national teams for the release of their players, and should they refuse to report for national team duty, the club risk a fine by Fifa.
Munetsi’s absence is giving Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić sleepless nights.
The Croat is also without Butholezwe Ncube who pulled out “because of medical reasons” while the United States-based duo of goalkeeper Tatenda Mkuruva and defender Tendai Jirira could not travel because of coronavirus restrictions in that country. More worrying for Logarušić is that most of his players are not getting regular game time at their clubs, while the travelling arrangements for Europe-based stars have been chaotic.
Most of the Eurore-based stars including regulars Tino Kadewere, Teenage Hadebe and Marvellous Nakamba only arrived in the country in the evening ahead of the team’s expected departure to Algiers last night. Poster boy Khama Billiat was expected to arrive in the country just minutes before the squad’s departure for Algiers.
“First we should be optimistic but realistic as well,” Logarušić said. “We have quality players but our only problem is most of them are tired especially our key players and some of them are injured. Travelling is killing us, most of them just got here from travelling for 15 hours and they now have to travel for nine hours again.”
Logarušić conducted a training session yesterday morning with just 14 players. There are also injury worries for him after Jordan Zemura limped off the training session while Tendai Darikwa and Terrence Dzvukamanja were not looking 100% fit.
“We couldn’t have any training together as a team. We only have an hour to train tomorrow in Algeria and that’s the only time we have to jel. Like I said, we must be realistic but we are not giving up, we should not give up. One thing I can tell you is the spirits of the players are high. I want to show them that I am good, that we are trying our best but if you check the match fitness of Algeria’s first 11 and ours, it’s different.”
He added, “Some of ours are not playing and some have injuries for example in South Africa they just played three games and they didn’t train for some months and most of those who were playing in Europe have lost their places in the team and are no longer regular players.
“Khama played three games in the last seven days, tell me now if he is ready. He is probably tired.
We have quality players no doubt about that but at the moment they are not giving us the best of them except for Tino who is doing well in France and captain Knowledge Musona.
But we don’t have the best of Nakamba right now, Hadebe, Mudimu these are key players but they are not having game time at their teams. And then Marshall is not coming, who is part of the heart of the team and the heart of the team Nakamba is not in his best form.”
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