BY HENRY MHARA
ZIFA are pressing for the release of Marvelous Nakamba from Aston Villa and are hopeful that the midfielder will be allowed to travel to Harare for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against South Africa.
Nakamba is one of the seven England-based Warriors players who have been blocked from representing their national teams in the upcoming international break after English Premier League (EPL) and English Football League Championship clubs unanimously decided not to release players travelling to red-listed countries.
But Zifa have continued to engage some of the clubs for a favour and were yesterday encouraged in their quest by the news that two EPL clubs Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspurs had released their Argentinian internationals.
Villa announced on Sunday night that it had allowed goalkeeper Emi Martinez and midfielder Emi Buendia to travel to Argentina where they would be joined by the Spurs’ pair of Giovani Lo Celso and Cristian Romero for their World Cup qualifiers against Venezuela and Brazil.
Argentina, just like Zimbabwe, is also on the United Kingdom’s red list.
“We were still in the process of engaging clubs in England to release our players for national duty even before these latest developments, but since Aston Villa and Tottenham have allowed their players to travel to Argentina, we have been encouraged to press even more. A precedence has been set, so we have written to Aston Villa again and we are hopeful this time that they will let Marvelous Nakamba come,” national team general manager Wellington Mupandare said yesterday.
It is understood that Nakamba has also been pushing from his end for his release and is prepared to foot the £2 500 hotel bill for his 10-day stay in quarantine on return to England.
“All the players want to come and some of them have been calling me in the middle of the night to check if there are any new positive developments. That is how badly they want to come and represent their nation,” Mupandare added.
Players travelling to red-listed countries are forced to undergo 10 days of mandatory quarantine upon their arrival back in the UK, and will miss at least two league games.
Fifa president Gianni Infantino last week wrote to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and “appealed for the necessary support, in particular, so players are not deprived of the opportunity of representing their countries in qualifying matches for the Fifa World Cup”.
Other England-based Zimbabwean stars who have been barred from travelling are Brendan Galloway, who was set to make his Warriors debut, Tendayi Darikwa, Jordan Zemura, Macauley Bonne, Admiral Muskwe and David Moyo.
United States-based defender Teenage Hadebe has also been ruled out after his club Houston Dynamo refused to clear him citing COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarušic has since been forced to look for replacements, adding to his squad players such as Knox Mutizwa, Kevin Moyo, Godknows Murwira, William Stima, Silas Songani, Ishamel Wadi and Farai Madhananga.
All the players in the squad except France-based Marshal Munetsi were expected in Harare yesterday to start camp ahead of the blockbuster Friday clash against Bafana Bafana set for the National Sports Stadium.
After the South Africa clash, Zimbabwe will be off to Ethiopia for their second group qualifier on Tuesday.
Munetsi, whose side Stade Reims played Lionel Messi’s PSG in a league match on Sunday night, is expected to arrive home today.
The midfielder, who scored for his club last week, put yet another good shift against the star-studded PSG side. He even scored a goal that was, however, ruled out after VAR’s intervention.
Stade Reims eventually lost the match 2-0 with Kylian Mbappe scoring both goals.
Goalkeepers: Washington Arubi (Marumo Gallants), Talbert Shumba (Free State Stars), Martin Mapisa (Zamora CF)
Defenders: Onesmor Bhasera (SuperSport United), Divine Lunga (Mamelodi Sundowns), Takudzwa Chimwemwe (Nkana), Alec Mudimu (Torpedo Kutaisi), Kevin Moyo (Nkana), William Stima (FC Platinum), Godknows Murwira (Dynamos).
Midfielders: Blessing Sarupinda (Sekhukhune United), Jonah Fabisch (Hamburger SV), Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims), Tafadzwa Rusike, Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United), Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Perfect Chikwende (Simba SC), Butholezwe Ncube (Amazulu), Silas Songani (FC Platinum), Farai Madhananga (Marumo Gallants), Ishmael Wadi (JDR Stars).
Strikers: Terrence Dzvukamanja (Orlando Pirates), Tinotenda Kadewere (Lyon), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows), Knowledge Musona (Al-Tai).
Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymhara