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Arubi eyes Warriors comeback

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BY HENRY MHARA

FORMER Dynamos goalkeeper Washington Arubi could force himself back into contention for the Warriors number one goal-keeping position as he continues to put up impressive performances for his South African club.

The 35-year-old Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) goal-minder literally sealed the goalposts last week to send giants and holders Mamelodi Sundowns out of the Nedbank Cup.

His outstanding performance drew praises from Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi who described him as “one of the best goalkeepers in the country”.

Locally, he has also received rave reviews with most Warriors fans saying he could be the answer to the national team’s goal-keeping deficit.

Arubi, who lost his place in the senior team after a forgettable Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Guinea at Rufaro Stadium in Harare in 2015, has expressed his desire to return to the Warriors fold to settle some “unfinished job”.

“Playing for the national team is an honour for every player, so I am always available for my national team,” Arubi told NewsDay Sport yesterday. “It is good that people are beginning to recognise my efforts. I am going to keep working hard, waiting for my call-up. I still have unfinished business with the Warriors.”

Arubi had become the Warriors’ first-choice goalkeeper before a blunder during a 2017 Afcon qualifier against Guinea on September 8, 2015, saw him losing the position to Tatenda Mukuruva.

On that forgettable afternoon, the veteran goalkeeper failed to deal with a back pass from Danny Phiri, with the ball bouncing off his knee and dropped for Guinea forward Sylla Idrissa who easily converted.

Captain Knowledge Musona went on to score an equaliser for the hosts to draw 1-1, with the point proving crucial for the team’s campaign as they went on to finish top of the group to qualify for the finals.

But for Arubi, it proved his last game in the gold and green colours of the Warriors as then coach Kalisto Pasuwa dropped him for the subsequent qualifiers and from the Afcon finals squad.

“It was very unfortunate (to make the error), and every player can make a mistake. The problem is as a goalkeeper you are the last man in the line of defence and if you make a mistake, there is no one to cover for you. I feel I need to be given another chance to right that wrong. That is the unfinished business that I am talking about,” Arubi said.

He was voted the Soccer Star of the Year in 2011 playing for Dynamos which he had helped to win the league title before moving to South Africa the following year where he has played for a number of teams. They include Pretoria University, Stellenbocsh and, most recently, Supersport United.

After spending two years warming the bench at SuperSport, Arubi has been reinventing himself at TTM where he has played 19 out of 21 league matches for the club.

Arubi has also been clearly one of the stand-out players, in the Nedbank Cup, this season.

He also played a starring role in the quarter-finals, when he saved two spot kicks in the shootout lottery, to set up a 4-3 victory, over Swallows.

“I am working very hard and I believe I still have a lot to offer to the national team.

“I didn’t have game time, so it was difficult to convince the national team coaches to call me, but now I am playing regularly and pushing myself hard to return to the national team.”

He was the only thing standing in the way of Sundowns and a goal throughout the 120 minutes and then when the match did go to penalties, he brilliantly saved Hlompho Kekana’s firmly-struck spot-kick towards the top right-hand corner.

Arubi and his TTM side will now meet Chippa United in the final of the Nedbank Cup with a R7 million winning prize and a ticket to play in the Caf Confederations Cup.

But for Arubi, he is hopeful that he has done enough to convince Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušić to consider him when he selects his squad for next year’s Afcon finals.

The goal-keeping department is proving problematic for the Croat who has been using Talbert Shumba as his first-choice of late. Young Spain-based Martin Mapisa was in goals for the Warriors in their last match against Zambia. Mukuruva is also still in the picture after he was called for the match, but could not travel due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

  • Follow Henry on Twitter @ henrymhara

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