Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
NORMAN MAPEZA says he doesn’t take instructions from anyone, including the ZIFA Board, when it comes to the selection of the Warriors and he chose not to consider some of the veterans, to give way for younger players, ahead of the 2019 Nations Cup qualifier against Liberia on June 11.
On a good day for the Warriors, most of the players called into camp have now reported for duty with the South Africa-based trio of Kuda Mahachi, Danny Phiri and Evans Rusike joining the squad yesterday together with Marvelous Nakamba, who plays for Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands.
The arrival of these players quashed speculation that they intended to boycott camp to protest the omission of four others — former captain Willard Katsande, Nyasha Mushekwi, Matthew Rusike and Cuthbert Malajila — from the national team squad.
Mapeza yesterday finally broke his silence on the controversy sparked by the absence of some of the veterans from the squad preparing for the match against Liberia.
The four were said to have been banned from the national team for playing a leading role in the embarrassing boycott of a fund-raising dinner organised by the government, where Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was the guest of honour, just before the 2017 AFCON finals in Gabon earlier this year.
However, Mapeza yesterday said the Association didn’t order him not to call up certain players and it was something he would not have accepted because that would be tantamount to interference in his job where his name will be on the line in the event results don’t go according to plan.
The former Zimbabwe captain, who has accepted the team on an interim basis, said he was not interested in the politics of football and will concentrate on the coming assignment against Liberia.
Mapeza also poured cold water on the talk that some senior players were mulling to boycott the national team in protest over the omission of the experienced quartet.
“I was surprised, I was just reading in the press that some of the guys are thinking of boycotting the camp. As for me, I don’t want to be sucked in those politics,’’ said Mapeza.
“I am a football coach, I earn my living through football. So for any player to say they don’t want to come and play for the country because of some certain things which they don’t know about, I don’t think it will be okay.
“And also for people to speculate that those guys don’t want to play for the nation because of some certain issues, it’s not okay because we are dividing the nation.
“We don’t have to divide the nation. Let’s talk about something that is real and not something that we are not sure about. Why do we have to divide the nation?
“This is football guys. These boys earn more money by playing for their national team. So if they read on the internet that they are boycotting national team games yet they have received some letters to come to the national team what does that mean? It doesn’t show a good picture.
“For me, never. I’m not the substantive coach here. I’m just here for this game. So who is going to tell me not to pick this one and pick that one? Nobody told me that. We have got youngsters here they also need an opportunity to play football. Cuthbert is approaching 33, Nyasha is, I don’t know, maybe 31-32.
“So, we have to give these youngsters a chance. I don’t have any problem with those guys, I have worked with them before. So, if I really needed them I was going to call them.’’
Goalkeeper George Chigova and striker Tendai Ndoro were expected to join camp yesterday. But the remaining trio of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Onismor Bhasera can only be able to report for duty when the camp resumes on Monday. The Warriors entered their second day of training yesterday with a practice match in the afternoon against Premiership side Yadah Stars.
The match ended in a 1-0 win for the Warriors courtesy of a penalty conversion by Golden Arrows star forward Mahachi. Mapeza was happy with the situation in the camp. “We cannot say much about which areas we need to improve at the moment because it’s just two days in training. Remember this is a national team, not a club.
“We just wanted to give the guys a run and maybe know exactly what we really want to do so that those guys who are not here when they come at least we will have somewhere to start from.
“So we just wanted to give them a hint of what we expect from the defenders in terms of ball possession, what we need from the midfielders in terms of going forward and in terms of defending. That’s what we wanted to see. “But I am happy with the commitment. The attitude is there, they want to play football,” said Mapeza.
The CAPS United players Ronald Chitiyo and Devon Chafa were released yesterday to join their team ahead of the CAF Champions League match against Al Ahli Tripoli scheduled for tomorrow at the National Sports Stadium.
But the rest of the squad will break camp after today’s training session to allow the local based players to travel to their bases for the league matches set for Saturday and Sunday.