Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa says he has picked his strongest squad of local players for the international friendly tie against Zambia at the National Sports Stadium on December 23.
The encounter, according to ZIFA, will now be known as the Christmas Challenge Cup.
ZIFA spokesman Xolisani Gwesela said in a statement that the Christmas Challenge Cup would now be a permanent feature on the local calendar.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association advises the football fraternity and the nation at large that it has organised a Christmas Challenge Cup. The match will feature the senior men’s teams of Zimbabwe and Zambia and will be played on the 23rd of December 2017 at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
“Zimbabwe and South Africa’s football legends will provide pre-match entertainment as the curtain raisers on the day. South African legends who include Lucas Radebe, Doctor Khumalo, Phil Masinga among others will feature in the curtain raiser match.
“Rahman Gumbo will be in charge of the legends with the able assistance of David Mandigora and Bekithemba Ndlovu.
“The cheapest ticket will be going for $2 for the rest of the ground while bays 15-18 will be charged at $5 and $20 for the VVIP stand.
“From this year onwards, ZIFA will organise annual editions of the Christmas Challenge Cup,’’ Gwesela said.
Chidzambwa however, said he would not leave anything to chance in his preparation for the latest in the showdowns between these COSAFA rivals which have always produced fireworks.
The veteran coach yesterday announced a 24-member team that is expected to go into camp on Wednesday at the Yadah Hotel.
After taking charge of the Warriors legends, Gumbo will join Lloyd Mutasa as Chidzambwa’s assistants while Brenna Msiska will be the goalkeepers’ coach and Thompson “Rubberman’’ Matenda the fitness trainer.
Chidzambwa has retained the bulk of the squad he had initially picked for the CECAFA tournament in Kenya ZIFA, citing security concerns withdrew from the tournament.
The former ZPC Kariba coach, however, overlooked foreign-based players for the friendly international, which is outside the FIFA calendar.
Although, the African Cup of Nations qualifiers are still months away having been moved from March to September next year, Chidzambwa said the Christmas Challenge Cup will provide him with a platform to assess the players he could possibly rope into his main squad.
“I think it’s good that we will field the best local players in this game. Zambia are always extra motivated when they play us. We expect a cracking match and we have to counter them, so we will prepare for this game.
“The job has begun for me so I would like to start assessing the players from a critical point of view. This is the perfect chance for the local based players to get game time and show what they can do,” said Chidzambwa.
The local assembled squad last met Chipolopolo in another friendly game in March at the same venue which ended in a goalless draw.
Then FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza was the caretaker coach of the Warriors.
The squad that was named yesterday also marks the return of ageless Chicken Inn midfielder Clemence Matawu to the Warriors fold.
Matawu had another fine season for the Gamecocks and was the driving force for the Bulawayo side as they remained in the title chase before finishing fourth.
Goalkeepers: Herbert Rusawo, Takabva Mawaya, Elvis Chipezeze.
Defenders: Jimmy Dzingai, Dennis Dauda, Peter Muduwa, Kelvin Moyo, Praise Tonha, Farai Madhananga, Devine Lunga, Qadr Amini.
Midfielders: Gerald Takwara, Devon Chafa, Liberty Chakoroma, Never Tigere, Ali Sadiki, Ocean Mushure, Clemence Matawu, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Ishmael Wadi, Leeroy Mavunga.
Strikers: Dominic Chungwa, Clive Augusto, John Zhuwawo.
Technical team: Sunday Chidzambwa (head coach), Rahman Gumbo (assistant), Lloyd Mutasa (assistant), Brenna Msiska (goalkeeper’s coach), Wellington Mpandare (manager), Nicholas Munyonga (doctor), Thompson Matenda (fitness trainer), Admire Nyamadzawo (physiotherapist), Tongai Mufandaedza (kit assistant).