Petros Kausiyo Deputy sports Editor
ZIMBABWE’S preparations for their opening African Cup of Nations qualifier against Tanzania continued to be dogged by injuries, with Dynamos centre-back Sydney Linyama the latest to pull out after sustaining an ankle injury.CAPS United defender Stephen Makatuka, who was drafted into the team on Monday, is also out of the game after it emerged that he does not have a passport.
The Warriors are expected to fly out to Dar es Salaam tomorrow afternoon for the first round, first leg tie against the Taifa Stars at the National Stadium in the Tanzanian capital on Sunday.
After being jolted by the late withdrawal of the Kaizer Chiefs pair of Willard Katsande and Kingston Nkatha and the setback of losing Ajax Cape Town striker Simbarashe Sithole during training, the Warriors yesterday had to grapple with the loss of another member of the squad that coach Ian Gorowa had called up for the assignment.
Linyama, who had been called up to provide cover to the centre-back partnership of skipper Partson Jaure and Hwange rock Eric Chipeta, injured his ankle after landing awkwardly during training and now faces six weeks on the sidelines after having his foot cast in plaster.
Linyama had forced his way into Warriors’ recognition after a promising start to the season in the heart of the Dynamos defence where he stood out, while Jaure was serving a Premier Soccer League suspension.
From the initial 22 players who had been named for the tour of duty to Dar es Salaam, the Warriors yesterday had 19 players in camp with three of them being goalkeepers.
Gorowa, who had to call How Mine forward Kuda Musharu following Sithole’s injury and Nkatha’s withdrawal, yesterday also turned to Black Rhinos’ Wonder Kapinda following the Linyama blow.
Kapinda was on the fringes of the African Nations Championships squad and with the Warriors now racing against time in terms of their preparations, he might just find his way in the side that will fly out tomorrow.
The Warriors coach is, however, a firm believer “in dealing with those players who are available’’ and is still confident his troops will pull off a result in Dar es Salaam.
“In football you focus more on those that are there to do duty inasmuch as you might wish to have had this or that player available,” Gorowa said.
“Anyone who has been called up should always try to grab that opportunity with both hands and make a mark and you never know you may not get that chance to play for your country again because coaches differ in opinion and preferences.”
Gorowa was riled by the way Katsande and Nkatha handled their withdrawals from the Warriors with the former understood to have only contacted team manager Shariff Mussa and his coach late on Monday night to inform them that he was now out of the Tanzania game.
Katsande yesterday claimed he had been affected by a stomach bug that has kept him holed up in Johannesburg at a time when the Warriors coach was expecting to him to be making his way into camp.
The gritty Amakhosi midfielder also insisted that he had not snubbed the call for national duty, arguing that it was the Warriors who had given him the platform to secure a professional contract and he would remain committed to their cause.
“It is with regret that I woke up to disturbing headlines in various sports sections of Zimbabwean newspapers pertaining to my availability for national duty,” said Katsande.
“Firstly, I love my country and deserting it would not be an option. It is through my selection to the national team that I have managed to be where I am. It is true that I will not be available, but not because I don’t want to.
“I am just from the doctor with a stomach bug and will only be able to start training in three to four days and it’s not enough time as the Warriors will be in Tanzania then. To all in Zimbabwe, my allegiance is with Zimbabwe. I am 100 percent for Zimbabwe. Thank you.”
Mussa, in confirming that Katsande had indeed been ruled out of Sunday’s tie, said the midfielder had claimed that “he was down with a terrible stomach bug’’.
The Warriors manager said although the injuries and withdrawals had disturbed the coach’s plans, they would make do with the material available.
“Obviously this is not the ideal situation because you always want to have your best but still it is up to those that are there to all prove that they can do the best,” Mussa said.
Despite the Warriors battling with injuries, their veteran goalkeeper Washington Arubi has backed them to secure a result against the Taifa Stars.
Arubi said he was drawing confidence from the manner in which he had seen the Warriors’ home-grown talent acquitting themselves at the CHAN tournament.
“These boys are hungry for success and one of the important things that I have noticed is the unity in the camp and that is key for success,’’ Arubi said.
The University of Pretoria goalkeeper is also hoping to use his experience to have a rub-on effect on his teammates, the majority of whom are playing are involved in their maiden nations Cup qualifying campaign.
“I have to keep pushing the youngsters. I started playing for the national team when I was very young and I know that if we work hard everything will fall into place for us.
“I think discipline is playing a key role in this team, we are one and those factors will drive us far. I am happy that the youngsters did well at CHAN and as a result guys like George (Chigova) and Simba (Sithole) got contracts with new clubs. Of course, it is going to be tough in Tanzania, but we just have to go there feeling confident and we are not going to sit back and try to defend, we actually want to win away and we just have to stay focused,’’ Arubi said.