Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
AS Zimbabwe prepare to resume their bid for a place at the 2017 African Cup of Nations finals, the Warriors technical department has made a passionate appeal to the game’s stakeholders, including the media to ensure the players are not distracted by the on-going probe into the match-fixing scam.
The Warriors face joint Group L leaders and surprise packages Swaziland in back to back fixtures in a blockbuster Easter weekend programme that will begin at Somhlolo Stadium in Mbabane on March 25 and end at the National Sports Stadium three days later.
These important back to back clashes have, however, been blighted by the sensational revelations that the there was a cartel targeting the Warriors against Sihlangu games for match fixing.
Following the busting of the alleged match-fixing ring, ZIFA moved in to suspend the pair of board member Edzai Kasinauyo and Warriors assistant coach Nation Dube while also alerting FIFA and the Confederation of African Football to put their surveillance systems in place.
As the match-fixing drama continues to unfold, Warriors manager Sharif Mussa yesterday appealed for calm in the run up to the matches urging Zimbabweans to avoid exerting pressure on the players over the scam.
Mussa said the match-fixing saga was being dealt with by ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa and his leadership and insisted that the players who have been called up for national duty needed to be allowed to focus on the on-field task they will be handed by coach Callisto Pasuwa in Mbabane and at the National Sports Stadium.
“As we begin our preparations for the resumption of the 2017 African Cup of Nations qualifiers between Zimbabwe and Swaziland which will be played over two legs during the Easter weekend, the Warriors head coach Callisto Pasuwa, the team manager Sharif Mussa and members of his technical team are of the considered view that we all need to put our full attention to these important Group L games.
“In this regard it is our humble request to members of the media and the nation at large that you help us to fully focus on the job at hand which will begin in Mbabane on Friday 25 March with the return leg being played at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Monday 28 February, 2016.
“It is our plea to members of the media, other valued stakeholders and football fans at large that despite these games between the Warriors and Swaziland coming against the background of the on-going match-fixing allegations and subsequently the investigations by ZIFA and the Zimbabwe Republic Police of a plot of to fix Zimbabwe’s games, the national team camp should be left to go ahead without undue distractions.
“It is thus our considered view and plea as the team management that while investigations are taking place please allow for due processes to take place by avoiding putting pressure on any of the players that have been called for camp to comment on the match-fixing issue.
“The matter is being handled at the highest level of the association by ZIFA president Dr Philip Chiyangwa while the country’s law enforcement agents are also seized with it.
“Thus we believe that unless and until the ZIFA authorities have issued directives or announced suspensions, every Zimbabwean player is eligible for selection to the team.
“To date only assistant coach Nation Dube has been suspended from his Warriors duties by ZIFA and should the media on behalf of the public seek further clarification on the issue you would have to please contact the association’s authorities who are handling the matter,’’ Mussa said.
Mussa said although they would not allow players to comment on issues related to the on-going match-fixing saga, arguing that the matter was subjudice, the Warriors internationals could still grant interviews on questions directly related to their form, their opponents and their preparations as it was not a blanket ban from the media.
“Our players remain open to interviews pertaining to such issues like form, views on the opponents and the upcoming game and the campaign to qualify for Gabon 2017 without delving into a matter that is subjudice.
“Please bear with us in this tough period and help our Warriors to overcome this serious threat to the integrity of our of football by focusing on on-field events at practice sessions, before, during and after the match while making sure that administrative issues are best left to the administrators to rightfully handle them.
“Together as a nation we can conquer Swaziland and continue with our dream to be in Gabon for the Nations Cup finals next year so please support our Warriors and let us all help create a winning environment for them that is not tainted by huge amounts of pressure on them that could make it difficult for them to even deal with a genuine mistake,’’ Mussa said.
The Warriors manager also updated the nation on the status of the England-based trio of Brendan Galloway, Tendai Darikwa and Macauley Bonne.
“Please note that of the 27 players that we had called into camp the trio of Brendan Galloway, Tendai Darikwa and Macauley Bonne are not immediately available for the back to back games.
“As maybe common knowledge now Galloway has declined our offer for the Warriors’ call-up to focus on strengthening his position at his club and also his chances of playing for the England senior team in future now that he has been included in the England Under-21 squad.
“Should he decide otherwise and opt to play for the Warriors before turning for the England senior team the door will be open for him.
“Darikwa was also very keen to play for Zimbabwe, but at the moment he has some pressing family issues that he is sorting out and is not in a position to travel for the Easter games. We, however, remain optimistic that he will be available for selection for the June 4 match against Malawi at home,’’ Mussa said.
The affable Warriors manager also said there was still an outside chance that Colchester forward Bonne could yet make it to camp.
“Bonne has been cleared by his club to come for national duty and he is willing to come. Unfortunately at the, moment he has some personal issues which he is sorting out and hopefully he can be able to put everything in place on time and join the training camp.
“But he had communicated and asked to be excused so that he can finish what he needs to sort out so we will know by the course of the week what the position is,’’ Mussa said.