Rooney scare

ROONEY SCAREEddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S preparations for the African Nations Championships suffered yet another scare yesterday when one of the Warriors key midfielders, Ronald “Rooney’’ Chitiyo, missed the afternoon training session after complaining of ankle and back injuries.

The diminutive playmaker was all sad and in deep thought yesterday as his teammates went through their paces at their Gateway High School training ground. The development appears to have also left the technical team greatly concerned.

In fact, Harare City newboy Chitiyo’s setback was not the only worry for the Warriors technical department as Callisto Pasuwa and his lieutenants had to do without four other players who sat out the most part of the afternoon programme with various injury complaints.

The Warriors have not been lucky with injuries this time around, a development that has forced Pasuwa to delay naming his final 23 for the fourth CHAN tournament in Rwanda.

That worrying trend continued yesterday with the injury list in the afternoon session including Dynamos vice-captain Ocean Mushure, Marshall Mudehwe and forward Roderick Mutuma.

The trio of Mushure, Mudehwe and Mutuma at least participated in some ball drills but from the look of things it appeared Chitiyo’s situation was the most disturbing as he sat outside the pitch with a heavily bandaged ankle.

Chitiyo is one of the key players who are expected to play a big role at the next CHAN tournament in Rwanda starting from January 16.

However, the midfield magician who recently left Dynamos to join Harare City, will have to shake off the misfortune to make his first CHAN appearance.

“We will have to hear from the doctors what they will have to say concerning him. As coaches it’s usually difficult to understand back injuries. It needs the doctors but I think he has been complaining about the back pain for a week now.

“Then in the morning he twisted his ankle, which means now he is carrying two injuries. I have been talking to the doctors about this issue and they said they are supposed to look at him tonight (last night) and then tell us how serious the injuries are,” said Pasuwa.

The Warriors have already lost five players, including their captain and midfield hardman Danny Phiri, due to injuries from the contingent of 32 that were called for the preparations.

The calamity of losing more personnel in similar fashion is the last thing that Pasuwa would want to hear, hence the decision to delay naming his final squad of 23 to travel to Rwanda. The Warriors coaches are now doing their best to manage the situation in the camp and to prevent more injuries.

Leftback Mushure was yesterday rested in the afternoon at the recommendation of team’s medical department after the DeMbare vice-captain had complained of pain on his left ankle.

Mushure had a normal training session in the morning before he started feeling the pain. He was joined on the sidelines by talented winger Mudehwe, who was also rested as a precautionary measure after showing signs of pulling a muscle.

Striker Mutuma completed the quartet of players who were in the Warriors casualty room yesterday. The self-styled prince of football has been battling a toothache since last week but “the pain was just unbearable yesterday’’.

Zimbabwe are in Group D alongside neighbours Zambia, West Africa giants Mali and the Uganda Cranes. The top two teams proceed to the quarter-finals.

Despite his injury woes Chitiyo said the Warriors are aiming to improve from their last outing when they finished fourth at the tournament that was held in South Africa in 2014.

Interim skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi is the only surviving member of that squad which was led by former Dynamos defender Partson Jaure.

Zimbabwe have been to every edition of the tournament since its inception in 2009 in Cote d’Ivoire and they hope to strike the right chords on their fourth attempt.

“We are looking forward to surpass the performance by the previous Warriors team at the last tournament in South Africa.

“We would want to bring the cup home. That’s our target.

“But let’s not forget that every team plays to win. So of the teams in our group none should be regarded as an easy opponent. Football has changed and we should always be ready in every game that we play.

“We must remain focused and try to fight as a team. I believe our coaches have seen a lot in football, so we should do whatever they tell us to do. What we want here are results, so we expect everyone to rally behind the team,” said Chitiyo.

Meanwhile, the Warriors yesterday rose two places up the FIFA rankings to number 108.

Zimbabwe remained number 31 team in Africa while there were also some slight movements for their opponents at the next CHAN tournament.

Zambia moved six places in the world to number 67 and two places up in Africa to 15th.

The Cranes climbed a rung up to 62nd in the world and 12th in Africa as they swapped places with Mali who are now ranked 63rd in the world.

Cote d’Ivoire remained the top team in Africa and heading an unchanged top five that has Algeria, Ghana, Cape Verde and Tunisia.

Belgium are still sitting at the apex of the world rankings followed by Argentina, Spain and Germany as there were largely no changes in the January rankings mainly due to the inactivity of national teams during the month of December.

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