ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa has promised the Warriors that they will be adequately catered for in their preparations for the African Nations Championships and challenged the senior team to surpass their 2014 achievement by reaching the final of the competition.
Chiyangwa yesterday braved the wet weather to visit the Warriors at their Gateway High School training round. The ZIFA boss, who was in the company of the association’s board member finance Philemon Machana, said his leadership was pulling out all the stops to ensure the Warriors would remain focused on their assignments in Rwanda next month without having to be distracted by welfare issues.
Zimbabwe are seeking to better the fourth place finish they achieved at the third CHAN edition in Cape Town in 2014 and both coach Callisto Pasuwa and Chiyangwa believe the youthful side have the character and pedigree to reach the finals. The Warriors would, however, have to first clear the Group D hurdles in which they meet neighbours and perennial rivals Zambia, Mali and Uganda in their pool matches before they can dream of reaching the final.
Chiyangwa insisted that the team would not experience the usual monetary challenges as they are working on measures to make sure that the Warriors are comfortable before and during the tournament. The Harare property mogul said the players should not be sidetracked by other issues as they need to concentrate on playing football and bringing back home positive results while all their needs are being looked after. Zimbabwe finished fourth at the last edition of the CHAN tournament held in South Africa and the ZIFA boss is confident they can surpass that feat.
“We want to go there right up and prove to our critics that Zimbabwe has got good footballers. It is very clear that for this team to qualify for the CHAN tournament it means they have done well. So we would want to do better than last time,” said Chiyangwa.
The ZIFA boss also reckoned that winning the CHAN tournament would go some way in atoning for the disappointment that Zimbabwean fans suffered when the Warriors were kicked out of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers following ZIFA’s failure to pay Brazilian coach Valinhos his outstanding salaries.
Chiyangwa has in his short stint as ZIFA president also moved in swiftly to avert a similar expulsion that was looming for Zimbabwe as the Warriors risked another World Cup expulsion from the 2022 tournament in Qatar if the association had not paid Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet $180 000.
With the pressure of settling the Saintfiet case being taken care of, Chiyangwa yesterday turned his attention to the CHAN squad and after watching them training, the ZIFA boss then addressed the players and their coaches.This is the national team, this is the team for the country. As they prepare, Government is also interested to see success and I think, working with Government, we have made serious commitment and once there are any problems that may arise we will certainly help our players to live well, play well and come back home with a better result,” said Chiyangwa.
The Warriors camp is now in full swing after putting behind them the off-field problems that rocked their preparations last week. Pasuwa and his men have lost considerable time after starting their preparations late and then breaking camp along the way because of the boardroom crisis that hit them just before the Christmas holidays. Zimbabwe have about two weeks before they leave for Rwanda and Chiyangwa yesterday pledged to give maximum support including engaging the Mozambican football authorities for a possible friendly match. There were also suggestions that they could play Ethiopia on their way to Rwanda, but details of the preparatory match are still sketchy.
Chiyangwa said he was aware of the possible challenges that the Warriors could affect them in Rwanda as they will be based in a small town of Gisenyi in the Rubavu district. The ZIFA boss said they will act on the recommendations they will get from team manager Shariff Mussa, who has visited the city and venues where the Warriors will be based during the Group D games. Pasuwa said the visit by Chiyangwa was a huge morale-booster and revealed that they ZIFA president and his board member Machana had taken them by surprise.
The former Dynamos coach, who was assistant to Ian Gorowa at the last CHAN tournament, will also be praying that the leadership will deliver on their promises as the Warriors look to burst into their first appearance in the final and possibly lift the cup. “I think everything is okay. If you see the president coming to the ground to offer morale support, it means the support is there. It’s now left to us to go and give back what is expected from us,” said Pasuwa.
The Warriors, however, have been affected by injuries and goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya was yesterday sent home because of a shoulder injury while skipper Danny Phiri will know today if he will be part of the squad to Rwanda. Phiri has been struggling with an ankle injury and is set to be assessed by the doctors to determine his availability for the tournament. The threat of injuries and the fitness issues in the camp will force the technical to delay naming their final squad. Team doctor Soman Mudariki yesterday confirmed Hwange goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya will not play any further part in the preparations while Phiri’s chances remained delicately balanced.
“Takabva Mawaya has left camp. We didn’t see it necessary to keep him because he will not have fully recovered by the time we leave for CHAN,” said Mudariki. “Otherwise Danny Phiri is making remarkable progress. We will re-assess him tomorrow (today) to decide whether he will be part of the team or not. But we are happy with his progress and he is also in positive spirits ahead of his assessment. “There are no other major injuries apart from those two. Injuries are normal occurrences in sport, but we have things under control,’’ Mudariki said.