BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
BOTSWANA are leaving nothing to chance in their bid to qualify for the 2021 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals with reports emerging from their camp that President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s government has promised its national football team, the Zebras, a staggering US$895 000 incentive if they beat the Warriors this month.
Zimbabwe make the trip to Botswana for the showdown on March 22, needing a win to enhance their chances of making it to Africa’s biggest soccer showcase.
They host the Zebras in Harare a week later.
A source in the Botswana camp disclosed yesterday that the team had been promised a windfall should they beat Zimbabwe’s Warriors.
With Group H leaders Algeria having already secured their place at the finals after managing 10 points from four matches, it has left Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zambia to battle for the remaining slot. Only two teams make it to the finals.
Zimbabwe are in second place with five points, while Botswana are on third with four points, and Zambia at the foot of the table with three points.
Any of the three still stand a chance to qualify.
Zimbabwe will qualify for the finals if they beat Botswana and Zambia fail to win against Algeria at home.
However, Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić will have to contend with a depleted squad as several of his Europe-based stars will not be able to play in the two matches because of the tough travel regulations imposed by the British government, which requires all persons, including athletes who will be returning to that country, to be quarantined for 10 days at a hotel.
With Fifa giving clubs power to refuse to release players, most clubs have taken advantage and opted not to release their stars.
This has affected especially Zimbabwe, who have several players in Europe, who include Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa, England), Tino Kadewere (Olympique Lyonnais, France), Marshall Munetsi (Stade Reims, France), Jordan Zemura (AFC Bournemouth, England) and Admiral Muskwe (Wycombe Wanderers, England), among others.
It is also still not clear whether United States-based goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva, who turns out for Michigan Stars, will make it.
Warriors forward Khama Billiat, who plays for Kaizer Chiefs in South Africa, is one of several stars who will not play a part in the match as he is injured.
However, Warriors captain Knowledge Musona, who turns out for Belgium outfit AS Eupen, has promised that he will be available for the match.
Another United Kingdom-based star defender Tendayi Darikwa has previously stated he will also play a part in the match, but UK regulations on COVID-19 could hinder his trip.
It is also not clear yet whether Turkey-based defenders Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor) and Alec Mudimu (Ankaraspor) will make it.
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