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Simba Bhora striker in dreamland

Simba Bhora forward Tymon Machope

SIMBA Bhora forward Tymon Machope has expressed shock and excitement at receiving his first Warriors call-up for next week’s back-to-back Group C Fifa World Cup qualifiers against Lesotho and South Africa.

The lanky striker is one of the three players in line to make their senior national team debuts, alongside Manica Diamonds goalkeeper Geofrey Chitsumba and striker Douglas Mapfumo, who plays for Polokwane City in South Africa.

Warriors interim coach Jairos Tapera yesterday announced a 23-member squad for the two crucial matches, first against the Crocodiles of Lesotho on Friday in Johannesburg, before travelling to Bloemfontein for a collision with Bafana Bafana three days later.

At the age of 30, Machope has emerged as one of the Premier Soccer League’s standout performers since joining Simba Bhora last season. He scored seven goals in 11 matches for the Shamva-based side after joining from a Division One side in mid-season.

Previously, he played for farm teams where he grew up. Despite facing adversity early in his career, Machope’s resilience and talent have shone through, earning him a permanent role in Simba Bhora’s attack.

His big physique and outstanding displays this term, where he has already scored four goals, could have influenced Tapera’s decision to include him in the squad.

“I am still in shock,” Machope said in an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday.

“I did not expect this, to be honest given my background. I am excited and still trying to process the whole thing.”

Machope has set his sight on securing a place in the starting 11 for the game against Lesotho.

“It’s not easy to be selected for the national team so I have to work hard. All eyes are now on me to deliver, but I am not frightened. I have reached this far through hard work, and I can say I have nothing to lose. What I am now praying for is to be given a chance so that I can show the nation what I am capable of doing. I have to grab this rare chance with both hands,” Machope said.

He also revealed how he found out about his Warriors call-up.

“I first saw it on social media, but I quickly dismissed it. A number of fake squads have been circulating in the last few days, so I did not take it seriously until an official from Zifa phoned me with the news. Like I said, I was shocked and excited at the same time. This is the best news I have heard in my footballing career.”

Machope’s inclusion makes him a challenger for a place within Tapera’s strikeforce, where much is undecided.

Tino Kadewere is the only mainstay in the team from the list that was announced, leaving others to fight with Machope for a berth including Tawanda Chirewa who also enjoyed a breakthrough season with English Premier League side Wolverhampton in the just-ended campaign.

Tapera, who will be assisted by Saul Chaminuka and Takesure Chiragwi, announced a team made up of players who were selected for the four-nation invitational tournament in Malawi a few months ago.

It is still unclear how much of an input Tapera made into the selection of the squad.

Warriors squad

Goalkeepers: Bernard Donovan (Chicken Inn), Martin Mapisa (Dynamos), Geofrey Chitsumba (Manica Diamonds)

Defenders: Gerald Takwara (Ohod, Saudi Arabia), Teenage Hadebe (Konyaspor, Turkey), Brendan Galloway (Plymouth Argyle, ENG), Munashe Garananga (Kv Mechelen, Belgium), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Godknows Murwira (Caps United), Shane Maroodza (Huddersfield, ENG), Devine Lunga (Mamelodi Sundowns, SA)

Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims, (FR), Andy Rinemhota (Rotherham United (ENG), Jordan Zemura (Udenese, Italy), Walter Musona (Simba Bhora), Daniel Msendami (Jwaneng Galaxy, Botswana), Tivonge Rushesha (Reading, ENG), Joey Phuthi (Sheffield Wednesday, ENG), Tawanda Maswanhise (Leicester City, ENG)

Forwards: Tinotenda Kadewere (Fc Nantes, FR), Tawanda Chirewa (Wolverhampton, ENG), Douglas Mapfumo (Polokwane, SA), Tymon Machope (Simba Bhora)

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