Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE Under-23 football team coach Tonderai Ndiraya will cast his net wide to include more of the Europe-born and bred players as he seeks to assemble a formidable squad to help the Olympics team back on their feet after four years of inactivity.
The Young Warriors will be back in action in March when they engage neighbours Mozambique in back-to-back qualifiers for this year’s Under-23 African Cup of Nations to be hosted by Egypt.
Ndiraya yesterday said his options will not be limited to local players only as Zimbabwe has a rich database of talented youngsters dotted across the globe.
“Every Zimbabwean playing professional football, who has the proper documents and is eligible to play for the national team, will be considered.
“I have noticed that we have a lot of talented youngsters all over the world who we can invite for assessment. In fact, we are chasing some of the boys and we have to make sure they have the necessary documents. Of course, time and funds permitting we will look to bring in as many as we can,” said Ndiraya.
ZIFA, who have been working in close co-operation with the Team Zimbabwe-UK and the Zimbabwe Foreign Legends to bring players dotted across the globe, are targeting a number of players plying their trade in Europe.
ZFL’s Mistry Chipere said most of the young players have committed themselves to play for Zimbabwe and these include Reading’s Andy Rinomhota, Tinashe Chakwana of Burnley, Reinhard Fabisch (Jnr), Matifadza Zata, Admiral Muskwe, Joshua Jeche, Kundai Benyu, Terry Mupariwa, Farai Mutatu, Shama Bako, Seth Patrick, Martin Zulu, Enrique Ricci Ricardo, Abubakar Moffat and Vashiko Dixon.
Rinomhota (21), who was born in Leeds to a Zimbabwean father, is said to be keen to play for the Zimbabwe national football team.
Ndiraya, who was named the new Young Warriors coach last week, faces a big challenge in trying to build a competitive side since he has under two months to complete the task with most of the locally-based players still inactive because of the off-season break.
Zimbabwe had a bye in the first round qualifiers and they play Mozambique in March. If they make it past the Mozambicans they will face the winner between South Africa and Angola in the final qualifier of the quadrennial tournament.
Eight teams qualify to play in the final tournament, including Egypt who qualified automatically as hosts. These matches also serve as the first stage of the CAF qualifiers for the 2020 Summer Olympics men’s football tournament in Japan.
Ndiraya said he was ready for the challenge. His task will also include preparing the Under-23 players for the senior national team duties.
“It is a great honour to be recognised by the national association and to be entrusted with such a huge responsibility. I will always strive to work hard and to do the best that we can as a team to produce the results.
“The most important thing for now is to assemble a team that can compete with their regional counterparts. Remember we have been inactive for about four years now and we are almost starting all over again.
“So we will put in place a programme so that we prepare adequately for the immediate task. We are going to request for a longer camp, perhaps four weeks. The good thing though is that most of the local players will have started their pre-season preparations.
“Hopefully the league games would have started as well by the time we play Mozambique because we are targeting to have at least 70 percent of players active in competitive football.
“Mozambique do not look like they are easy opponents. They have been playing and they eliminated Swaziland, which shows their team has the qualities to win matches.
“The bigger picture is qualifying for the Olympics but we have to make it to the African Cup of Nations first. And for now the immediate task is Mozambique, then either South Africa or Angola in the final qualifier. So we have to assemble a team that can compete,” said Ndiraya.