Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS caretaker coach Wilson Mutekede is looking to play his cards well and get a positive result when he leads the team in the battle for the Dr Hage Geingob Cup against hosts Namibia today. Mutekede, who is also the ZIFA Technical Director, yesterday told The Herald his primary concern was with the long term goals for the team.
A win over Namibia this afternoon will go a long way after the new-look side made a false start to their double-date of international friendlies against Lesotho during the week. Zimbabwe lost 1-0 to Likuena and the defeat somehow has not been received well by the football supporters back home. Mutekede, however, said regardless of results, he is in a drive to set a strong foundation for the future after welcoming a quartet of foreign-based players who, for the first time, heeded the call-up to represent their nation.
UK-based Macauley Bonne, Tendayi Darikwa and Kundayi Benyu started in Lesotho while Leicester City forward Admiral Muskwe was a second half substitute. Zimbabwe are using the matches to prepare for the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations with their next game coming up in March against Congo.
“Zimbabweans are a football-loving people and they have high expectations. It is good to be always expectant in life because if you don’t have expectations then you have no reason to live. But we are saying let’s not lose focus on what is important. What is important is that we have called in these guys and for the first time they have heeded the call and they are eager to play for the nation.
“They are so motivated, they are professionals. If we talk of grooming, etiquette and conduct as players, these are players who are going to add value to the team. So I’m saying Zimbabwe let’s keep supporting our team. It’s about the future and the future looks bright. Look, we have a current squad that has won against Liberia but I believe we are going to do even better against Congo (in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers).
“I am a resident coach in the office and my responsibility is to aid the development of the team. The coaches that will come will build on that,” said Mutekede.
The Warriors are not expected to make many changes to their team although the coach is keen to give all his players a run. This will be the third time the teams are playing each other this year after their back to back clashes in the CHAN qualifiers in July. Namibia knocked Zimbabwe out of the finals of the CHAN tournament due for early next year in Morocco. But the Warriors have now set their sights on AFCON where they began their Group G campaign with a 3-0 thumping of Liberia.
They also face DR Congo and Congo-Brazzaville in the group and Mutekede, who is assisted by Lloyd Chitembwe in the interim technical team, believes they need to strengthen the team and widen options for the coach who will be appointed to continue with the race.
“The bigger picture that we are looking at is trying to make sure we are regenerating the Warriors squad, we are giving these youngsters exposure and I tell you with the talent that we have now and coupled with the guys that are already in the setup we have a very formidable squad. Imagine Khama Billiat, Knowledge and Costa Nhamoinensu coming in. We have a strong squad. When I’m talking of regeneration, these (new) guys are 18-22 and it’s Darikwa who is older and when you look at their playing span, it’s actually an addition of the life of the current Warriors squad.
“So in terms of regeneration I think we are happy. Basically in football we know that results always matter, we know that, but we want to focus on things that are much more important to our Warriors squad.
“It is rather, probably, reasonable to fail to get a result in friendly match and then we go on to do well in a competition because we have prepared well. Competitions are simply a measure of preparedness and it is this process that we are going through. I believe in football to come up with a team is a process, it’s not an event. You cannot come out with a good team overnight,” said Mutekede.
Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti said he is using the match to prepare for the upcoming finals of the CHAN tournament. Peter Shalulile, Ronald Ketjijere and Hendrick Somaeb will be key for the Brave Warriors but goalkeeper Edward Maova has been ruled out of the match due to injury while Panduleni Nekundi is also a doubtful starter.
The challenge match, which is played in honour of Namibian President, will be characterised by pomp fanfare.
“Edward has done more damage to his injury and will start on the bench on Saturday. Lodyt Kazapua will now start in goal against Zimbabwe and as for Panduleni, he is nursing a groin injury and we still have to assess him and see how best to go about it. They are players we need and we will make the best of what we can get from them. Otherwise other players then step up as the same for Lodyt to start the game”