BY HENRY MHARA
THE Warriors technical team is putting up a brave face after going through a rough patch in the run-up to the African Nations Championships (Chan) tournament which kicks off on Saturday.
Zimbabwe is set to leave the country for Cameroon tomorrow ahead of their tournament curtain raiser.
Team manager Wellington Mupandare says despite their shoddy preparations, mostly because of a COVID-19 outbreak in camp, the Warriors are not going to the biannual tournament to make up numbers, but to compete.
Chan is a tournament reserved for players that play in their respective domestic leagues.
Warriors have had the worst preparations for this edition with the team having barely trained together due to various reasons.
Some of their opponents have been playing preparatory matches over the last couple of weeks.
“We are living in unusual times and we have to adjust to the situation,” Mupandare said.
“This is the situation that we are in and we won’t mourn about it because every team has its own different challenges. If anything, the boys are even more determined to defy the odds. We have set ourselves our target as a team and we will try to achieve that.”
Coach Zdravko Logarušić has previously said the team is targeting reaching the quarter-finals of the tournament.
The Croat has overseen chaotic preparations for the tournament, with the team’s participation at one time having looked in doubt.
Their participation was only confirmed on Saturday after they were given the greenlight to train by the government.
Logarušić was forced to select players who have not played competitive football for over a year after last season’s local league campaign was scrapped off due to COVID-19.
As this was not bad enough, the team’s training had to be suspended after the camp was hit by the deadly virus which saw 10 players and five officials returning positive results.
The whole squad was forced into quarantine a fortnight ago and only resumed training on Saturday after retests saw the players drawing negative results.
Fourteen members have recovered from the virus while one player is still down and in isolation.
Mupandare said players who were injured — King Nadolo, Richard Hachiro and Leeroy Mavunga — prior to the forced break had since recovered.
“The recovery of the previously injured players is one of the positives that we have to take from the break. The three players have had time to recover from their injuries and are all back to training. We don’t have any injury worries at the moment,” he said.
The only blot in the camp so far, Mupandare said, was the one positive case.
The team will undergo a final COVID-19 test today ahead of their departure for Yaoundé tomorrow.
Drawn in Group A, the Warriors will also play Burkina Faso and Mali with the top two teams qualifying for the quarter-finals of the tournament.
But having lost so much time, the Warriors are hoping to make the most out of the remaining time, while also imposing stricter conditions to protect the team from new infections.
“Zifa would like to assure the public that we will adhere to Caf, Fifa and SRC [Sports and Recreation Commission] medical protocols before, during and after the tournament in order to mitigate the spread of the virus,” Zifa said in a statement on Saturday.
“We are confident that every member of the team will be motivated by these new progressive developments to be victorious on the pitch.”
Goalkeepers: Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Simba Chinani (Dynamos), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi)
Defenders: Peter Muduwa (Highlanders), Partson Jaure (Dynamos), Tafadzwa Jaravani (CAPS Utd), Ian Nekati (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini (Ngezi), Carlos Mavhurume (CAPS Utd), Pawell Govere (Golden Eagles), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Talent Chamboko (Manica Diamonds)
Midfielders: Richard Hachiro (CAPS Utd), Ronald Chitiyo (CAPS Utd), Gabriel Nyahwa (Bulawayo Chiefs), Wellington Taderera (Ngezi), Leeroy Mavunga (CAPS Utd), Tatenda Tavengwa (Harare City), King Nadolo (Dynamos), Denver Mukamba (Ngezi)
Strikers: Obriel Chirinda (Chicken Inn), Tawanda Nyamandwe (Manica Diamonds), Farawo Matare (Bulawayo Chiefs)