Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
THE arrival of the British-based quartet of Kundai Benyu, Admiral Muskwe, Macauley Bonne and Tendai Darikwa to play two international friendly matches against Lesotho and Namibia is exactly what the doctor prescribed as the country’s flagship football team pursues its quest for glory on the international stage.
Warriors, featuring the first batch of their British Brigade, conceded a goal four minutes into time added on as they slumped to a 0-1 defeat in their friendly international match against Lesotho in Maseru on Wednesday night. Caretaker coach Wilson Mutekede and his assistant Lloyd Chitembwe thrust three of the recruits from the British Brigade – Bonne, Darikwa and Benyu – straight into battle in the team’s first XI and the three players put in a decent shift in their first game for the senior national team.
Leicester City’s Muskwe warmed the bench. Zimbabwe is not part of the current World Cup qualifying campaign but the nation resumes the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers next year in March and that only places into context the importance of the four players’ timely arrival. The quartet – strikers Benyu, Muskwe and Bonne and defender Darikwa – touched down at different intervals and were given a rousing welcome by a waiting band of drum-beating Warriors supporters at the Harare International airport.
It is against this background that football fans in Mutare have praised the move to lure foreign based players who trace their roots to the country, saying the development will boost the national team’s chances of qualifying for major international tournaments. The Warriors are set to clash with Namibia in Windhoek tomorrow (Saturday) as ZIFA makes commendable efforts to take advantage of FIFA dates reserved for international friendly matches.
However, it is the arrival of players based in Britain early this week which charmed football fans and left hopes for a bright future for the national team. Although talismanic forward and skipper, Knowledge Musona, has been ruled out of the two international friendlies against Lesotho and Namibia, the fans this week welcomed their British based new recruits.
Bonne, Darikwa and Muskwe were the first of the “British Brigade’’ to fly in accompanied by Marshal Gore who has been working round the clock to facilitate the players’ availability to feature for their fatherland. Munyaradzi Mapungwana of Yeovil said the foreign based players’ exposure will come in handy for the national team.
“It is a positive development for our national team and we hope that youngsters will be available for selection going into the future. Their exposure is needed. It will help our national team in international tournaments. Hopefully they will be available for selection going into the future,” said Mapungwana.
Bongai Dube of Zimunya said it is good to see new players coming on board but coaches must not hesitate to wield the axe if they fail to perform.
“I think it is good to see new players coming on board. We need them but coaches must not hesitate to wield the axe if they fail to perform. It should not be about players coming from abroad but it is all about what they have to offer to the team,” he said.
Aaron Chiba of Chikanga reckoned that the move to lure Zimbabweans based overseas is a noble idea though he was quick to point out that they should be part of the national team on merit.
“There is no doubt that the move to lure Zimbabweans based overseas is a noble idea. We need their experience and exposure. It is important to have players with international exposure at national team level. However, we just cannot afford to take every other Tom and Dick simply because they are based overseas.
“It has to be on merit. They (overseas based players) have to show their worth for them to be part of the national team. That is the only way we can succeed as a nation in football,” he said.
Themba Dekesa of Chipinge said while it is important to have foreign based stars it is equally important not to ignore local based players as well as those plying their trade in South Africa.
“It is a fact that foreign based stars are important to our national team especially those based overseas. However, it is equally important to have local players and those playing in South Africa in the same team. The reason being that some players are not that lucky to secure clubs overseas but that does not mean they are inferior to those who end up playing overseas. Khama Billiat is a good example. Therefore, while it is important to have foreign based stars it is equally important not to ignore local based players as well as those plying their trade in South Africa,” said Dekesa.
After playing Lesotho on Wednesday, the Warriors briefly returned home on Thursday (yesterday) evening before catching another flight to Namibia today (Friday). The Brave Warriors, who knocked the Warriors out of the 2018 CHAN tournament, have named a strong side for the Hage Geingob Cup tie set for the Sam Nujoma Stadium on November 11.
Goalkeeper: Edmore Sibanda, Hebert Rusawo.
Defenders: Dennis Dauda, Tendai Darikwa, Qadr Amini, Jameson Mukombwe, Kelvin Moyo, Peter Muduwa.
Midfielders: Kundai Benyu, Liberty Chakoroma, Devon Chafa, Marvellous Nakamba, Kuda Mahachi.
Strikers: Admiral Muskwe, Macauley Bonne, Tendai Ndoro