Petros Kausiyo in HARARE and Mukudzei Chingwere in GWERU—
GOVERNMENT has said it is committed to help in the regularisation of the citizenship of the British Brigade called up by ZIFA to represent the Warriors. The first batch of the British Brigade is expected in the country next week for two friendly internationals against Lesotho and Namibia. Most of the players were born in the United Kingdom to Zimbabwean parents and currently hold British passports and, right now, cannot represent the Warriors in international matches like the African Cup of Nations or the World Cup.
However, they can play in friendly matches as the rules that govern such matches are not as strict as those that govern the real international games like the AFCON and World Cup qualifiers.
The quartet of Kundai Benyu, Tendai Darikwa, Macaulay Bonne and Admiral Muskwe have been included in the squad for the two matches against Lesotho and Namibia with Bonne, who plays for Leyton Orient, having already featured for Zimbabwe in an international friendly against Morocco, in Casablanca, where he scored the only goal for the team.
Muskwe holds a Zimbabwean passport. The Government, through Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture Minister, Makhosini Hlongwane, has hailed ZIFA for casting their net wide and calling the players to represent their motherland.
Hlongwane said his office was committed to pull all stops to ensure these players would get all the help they need to regularise their status and represent the country in the competitive matches like the AFCON qualifiers.
“ZIFA has done a good thing by initiating this process of inviting these boys to come and play for their country,’’ said Hlongwane.
‘’We shall get to a stage where they require documentation for them to be able to play competitively, that is representing the Zimbabwe national team (in matches like the AFCON qualifiers which resume in March next year).
“The issue where these guys need to be supported with documentation we will do that, that is our job we do not have problem with that. Definitely we will help them, that is not a problem at all, without a doubt we will help them.’’ Hlongwane said he has received a number of calls from footballers with Zimbabwean roots, based in Europe, who want to wear the Warriors jersey in future assignments. ‘’There are some players who called us several times saying they want to play for Zimbabwe,’’ the minister said.
‘’But as the ministry it is not our job to choose players to represent the national team, that is for ZIFA. Anyone who wants to play football in this country will do so through ZIFA and ZIFA will write to us if they need help in the documentation process and we also notify the Registrar General’s Office, we are prepared to do that. If you did not know when we went to Gabon there are players I was told wanted to get assistance to get documentation and I told the Registrar General and he said they were welcome but these guys did not come to get their documents processed.’’
Warriors’ team manager Wellington Mupandare told The Herald that he was in constant communication with the Europe-based players and they have pledged to come to Zimbabwe to represent their country. “I talk to them every day and they assured that they are coming. All those called by the coach have confirmed that they are coming,’’ Mpandare said.
“We expect them to start reporting for duty on Monday and the others will also be expected in the country on Tuesday.’’ Darikwa’s father grew up in Mufakose with Memory Mucherahohwa although the player was born in Nottingham. He has already met a number of key individuals, including the ZIFA consultant in England Marshall Gore, who has been working around the clock to persuade a number of these players that their interests were better served playing for the Warriors.
Darikwa also met ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa in London and was handed a Warriors replica jersey. Meanwhile, two more Zimbabweans who had been horning their skills in the United Kingdom have broken into the Serbia leagues, further widening the selection base for the Warriors. Tinotenda Chibharo, a 24-year-old midfielder, joined Serbia Second Division outfit FK Sloboda Uzice after a stint as an apprentice at Scottish side Kilmarnock.
Chibharo, who has captained the Manchester City Under-21 side, moved to Serbian football together with Tendai Chatiza In a move facilitated by former Zimbabwe and Chapungu midfielder Kennedy Chihuri and his partner Trevor Mazhande. Chatiza is at rival club Backa Topola and interestingly the two Zimbabweans will square off against each in a league match on Chibharo’s birthday on November 11.
Chibharo also welcomed the direction the Zimbabwean game is taking by embracing the talent dotted around the globe and reckoned that the Warriors would soon be a force on the continent. He also expressed his wish to feature for Zimbabwe and remained optimistic that he would, just like such players as Benyu and Darikwa, secure a call up to the Warriors.
“I was playing as an apprentice at Kilmarnock until Kennedy Chihuri and his friend helped me with the move to Serbia. ‘’It’s pretty challenging considering not many speak English here but besides that the football is pretty good and I’m starting to enjoy playing. I also think the Warriors will do well and with all the good quality of players we have playing in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Europe we should be the next big football nation in the next few years. It’s always a pleasure whenever you get to represent your country and surely I will be glad to play for the Warriors one day but I’m sure the players that have been called by the coaches this time will do the job well,’’ Chibharo said.