Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
WITH just over a month before the resumption of the African Cup of Nations qualifying campaign, Zimbabwe’s Warriors have stepped up their quest to have more of their foreign legion — including Germany-based striker Kelvin Lunga and the British Brigade — secure passports and become eligible to represent their fatherland.
The Warriors, who lead Group G, will get back to the business of trying to secure a place at the 2019 Nations Cup with a cagey assignment against Congo in Brazzaville on the weekend of September 7-9.
Zimbabwe opened their account with a 3-0 win over Liberia via a superb hat-trick by captain Knowledge Musona at the National Sports Stadium last year.
The Warriors are also still to play against the Democratic Republic of Congo in the same group.
But coach Sunday Chidzambwa is not taking any chances in that bid to be part of the elite cast of nations that will book their tickets to Cameroon for the Nations Cup jamboree and has tasked team manager Wellington Mpandare with ensuring that they assemble the best arsenal possible.
Chidzambwa has often argued that for Zimbabwe to go beyond just qualifying for the Nations Cup, they needed to have more players playing in the bigger and more competitive European leagues.
Mpandare hinted yesterday that he was closing in on a deal to secure the much-needed documents for the Warriors’ foreign legion including the British Brigade.
The Warriors team manager was, however, not amused with the frustration that has encountered in his bid to have the players available for selection.
More than a month after he raised serious concerns with the lack of support from the Sport and Recreation Commission on their bid to secure passports for players born to Zimbabwean parents but staying abroad, Mpandare, to his eternal credit has not thrown in the towel and has been fighting to assist the players to regularise their papers.
Mpandare revealed that the Warriors were still facing challenges to secure all the players that Chidzambwa has targeted but had not given up hopes of getting the likes of Tendai Darikwa, Adam Chicksen and McCauley Bonne to play for their country.
He also spoke of the frustration that striker Lunga had allegedly recently endured at the Zimbabwean embassy in Germany in his quest to become eligible for the Warriors.
Lunga, son of former Zimbabwe and Dynamos international Max Lunga Makanza has made no secret of his intentions of playing for the Warriors and had initially been included in the COSAFA Cup squad for the tournament in Polokwane early last month.
Mpandare said Lunga had the same enthusiasm as his colleagues most of whom are in the United Kingdom with all of them expressing a wish to turn out for Zimbabwe and helping their country become a force on the continent.
The players also seem to be drawing some inspiration from Alex Mudimu’s successful debut for Zimbabwe where the CEFN Druids defender was one of the stars of the COSAFA Cup show in South Africa.
“The youngsters are very keen to play for their country and they have been trying to follow all the procedures and avenues available for them to get their passports and I must say our UK embassy has been very supportive in that regard.
“I cannot say the same for the SRC who have continued to be unhelpful and I was also very disappointed that in Kelly Lunga’s case he was frustrated at the embassy in Germany even though he has a Zimbabwean birth certificate.
“He was told by Mr Enos Mafemba (Minister Counsellor) at the embassy that Germans would not be allowed to represent Zimbabwe and I even tried to assist him from this end and pleaded with him to allow the player to complete his forms and then let the forms be forwarded to the Registrar General’s office in Harare but the man kept shifting goal posts,’’ Mpandare said.
With Chidzambwa having indicated that he would want to be afforded an opportunity to travel and assess the players he is eyeing for the Warriors game against Congo, Mpandare said it was imperative that the foreign legion have their passports sorted on time.
“The plans to travel to the players’ bases are still very much in the pipeline but we need to have the passports issues sorted as soon as possible too’’.
While the Sports Commission may have claimed that associations leave it until the last minute to seek their assistance with such issues like travel documents, it has been more than four months since the Warriors indicated to them that they were keen on securing passports for such players like Kundai Benyu, Tristan Neydam, Reis Nelson, Darikwa, Chicksen and Lunga.
Most of the players, whom coach Sunday Chidzambwa has identified ahead of the resumption of the Warriors 2019 African Cup of Nations, were born of Zimbabwean parents but outside the country and have been playing for clubs in England, Scotland and Germany.
Mpandare said the issue had been politicised and the country was now suffering because some people wanted to nurse their egos.
Former Warriors defender George Mbwando has also previously thrown his weight behind the initiative that Chidzambwa and Mpandare have taken to rope in the British Brigade and other Zimbabweans dotted around the globe.
The 42 year-old former international who played professional football for a number of German clubs which include Bonner SC, Vfb Oldenburg, Vfb Lubeck, Alemania Aachen, SSV Jahn Regensburg and FC Ingolstad, reckoned that the new players would not only add to the Warriors depth but bring different dimensions to the Warriors’ game.
Mbwando revealed that he had watched big striker Lunga, grow through the development structures of German football and maturing into “a good striker who has strong eye for goal’’.
“I think the project to bring most of the Zimbabweans who are outside the country needs to be supported and the country should also afford Mhofu a chance to visit players in Germany, England, Belgium and any other leagues so that he can also assess some of the players who could not make the squad this time around.
“Reinhard Fabisch used to do that and he visited the likes of Henry McKop and Max Lunga at their clubs and it helped him a lot and Mhofu should be given the same kind of support.
“Football now is big business everywhere, it’s also business for the national teams and for clubs and countries to succeed they have to invest. You cannot reap where you did not sow.
“I believe there are plenty Zimbabweans and we have to appreciate that those who are outside are developing faster than those at home for obvious reasons such as access to the right facilities.
“The only solution to improve our football is to bring players from different leagues, if you look at the team that was in Gabon at the Nations Cup and other previous teams the bulk of the payers were always from South Africa and not that they were not doing well but with this diversity we will be much stronger,’’ Mbwando said.