BY HENRY MHARA
WASHINGTON Arubi has been rewarded for an outstanding season in the South African Premier League last season as the goalkeeper is expected to be included in the Warriors Cosafa squad which could be announced today.
The 2011 Premier League Soccer Star of the Year single-handedly won the Nedbank Cup for his side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, which came with a ticket to play in the Caf Confederations Cup next season.
He also played a role in helping the club, now named Marupo Gallants, to avoid relegation from the top-flight league.
Arubi was awarded the Nedbank Cup player of the tournament for his exploits last season.
His heroics have seen him forcing his way into Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušic’s plans for the Cosafa tournament to be staged at Nelson Mandela Bay from July 7-18.
Sources confided with NewsDay Sport yesterday that the 35-year-old veteran goalkeeper is one of the few foreign-based players who have been roped into the squad.
“Arubi had an outstanding season and it becomes difficult for the coach to ignore him. The coach wants to have a look at him, so he has been included into the squad,” a source said.
Arubi would be making his return to the Warriors fold since 2015.
The former Dynamos goalkeeper had risen to become the first choice goalie for the senior national team, but lost his place after a horror Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier show against Guinea at Rufaro Stadium in Harare on September 8, 2015.
The goalkeeping 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.
United States-based Tatenda Mukuruva, who replaced Arubi, is also still in the picture after he was called for Zimbabwe’s last match, but could not come due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Logarušic has said he will travel with fringe players to South Africa, who will be given a chance to impress and possibly force their way into the main squad for the World Cup qualifiers in September.
Other foreign-based stars set to be included on the trip to South Africa are strikers Knox Mutizwa and Evans Rusike.
Rusike is currently clubless after he was released by SuperSport and the tournament will give him a chance to impress possible suitors.
He has been linked with a switch to Amazulu.
Zimbabwe were drawn to play against west African guest nation Senegal, Mozambique and 2015 Cosafa Cup winners Namibia in Group C at the tournament.
The Warriors will begin their campaign with a match against Mozambique on June 8, before facing Namibia three days later.
They will conclude their group matches against Senegal.
Only the top team in each of the three groups and the best placed runner-up will advance to the semi-finals after the format of the tournament was changed this year.
That means each side is guaranteed three games up to a maximum of five, which will provide vital preparation for teams like Zimbabwe involved in World Cup qualifiers.
“It’s a good draw for what the coach is looking to achieve,” Warriors team manager Wellington Mupandare said.
Zimbabwe will begin their 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifying campaign with a home match against South Africa before travelling to Ethiopia for the second match.
They have back-to-back clashes with Ghana and will visit Bafana Bafana before concluding the campaign with a home match against Ethiopia.
All these matches are scheduled for September and October.
Group winner will qualify to the final round of the World Cup qualifiers set for November.
Logarušic had wanted to bring all his best players including the Europe-based stars for the Cosafa Cup, but failed because the regional tournament falls outside the Fifa window for international
The Cosafa Cup tournament is making a comeback after the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hosts South Africa are in Group A with neighbours Lesotho, Botswana and Eswatini.
Defending champions Zambia are in Group B and will face Malawi, and the island nations of Madagascar and Comoros in their first round pool.
Zimbabwe has won this regional tournament more than any nation with six titles followed by Zambia (five), South Africa (four), Angola (three) and Namibia (one).
- Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara