Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa has expressed satisfaction with the enthusiasm for national duty demonstrated by his charges, with the bulk of them, including Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa, reporting for duty on time ahead of the start of the resumption of their African Cup of Nations campaign.The Warriors face tough back-to-back African Cup of Nations qualifiers against the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the first of the encounters scheduled for Kinshasa on Saturday.
Chidzambwa’s men will then host the Leopards at the National Sports Stadium next Tuesday, in a rare night game for the Warriors.
The veteran coach was, however, left a pleased man after the bulk of his players trooped in yesterday which will afford him a chance to conduct at least a training session this morning before they fly out to DRC.
Kaizer Chiefs forward Khama Billiat, his Amakhosi teammate Teenage Hadebe, Talent Chawapiwa, George Chigova, Edmore Sibanda, Marshall Munetsi, Knox Mutizwa and Darikwa were among the early birds.
Wales-based defender Alec Mudimu also arrived late in the day yesterday.
But skipper Knowledge Musona and midfielder Marvellous Nakamba, who are both based in Belgium, are only expected to join the rest of the squad in time for their expected departure for DRC, via South Africa today.
Chidzambwa had named a 23-man squad, but he will only finalise on the travelling party after their workout at the giant stadium.
The Warriors are expected to leave for Kinshasa later in the evening via Johannesburg, South Africa, arriving in the vast Central African country shortly before midnight.
As is seemingly becoming the Warriors jinx in this campaign, the technical team has been forced to drop defender Divine Lunga after the in-form left-back suffered an ankle injury at the weekend during an ABSA Premiership match for his South African side Lamontville Golden Arrows.
But the good news, with most of the players turning up on time including the second member of the “British Brigade’’ — Darikwa — outweighed the disappointment of the latest injury setback to hit the Warriors’ camp.
Darikwa is now in-line for his Warriors debut after securing his Zimbabwean passport last week.
“I am still to get the final list of those that have arrived yet, but I am happy with the responses that we have been getting from these players.
“Obviously, most of these guys have been getting some game time at their clubs and it means they have match fitness. Some of them have been getting good results of late and it’s good for their confidence.
“And as for Darikwa, it’s something that we have been waiting for, for a long time. It’s a plus for us. No doubt he is a good player and now that he is here, we wish him all the best. We are hoping to work together as a team,” said Chidzambwa.
The 26-year-old Darikwa was born in Nottingham, England, to Zimbabwean parents, and had never set his foot on his homeland until last year when ZIFA, through their UK-based agents, intensified efforts to recruit talented players with Zimbabwean roots who are scattered across Europe.
Efforts are still being made to get more such players. Chidzambwa will have a full house this afternoon, with the expected arrivals of Musona and Nakamba.
The pair could not make it yesterday since their teams were involved in league games in the Belgian Pro-League late on Sunday.
Musona was an unused substitute in Anderlecht’s 2-1 win over Zulte Waregem.
Nakamba, who missed the Warriors’ previous assignment away to Congo Brazzaville, was also on the bench when his side Club Brugge lost 1-3 to Standard Liege.
But he had come on as a 55th minute substitute in Club Brugge’s Champions League clash against Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, albeit on a 3-1 losing cause.
The Warriors are currently on top of Group G with four points. DRC also have four points, but Zimbabwe are currently enjoying better goal difference.
Although they will square off in a top-of-the-table clash, both the Warriors and the Leopards are certain to keep an eye on the proceedings in the other game pitting basement nations Liberia and Congo.
ZIFA are however, not taking any chances ahead of Saturday’s encounter and they dispatched communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela to Kinshasa on Sunday, with a view to ensuring all the team’s logistics are in place before the big battle.
Gwesela is responsible for, among other things, arranging suitable accommodation for the team and securing training facilities which will be used by the Warriors in the next three days.
Zimbabwe are also hoping to have evening training sessions to adjust to the night conditions in the vast Central African country.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said the coaches would not make a 11th hour replacement for Lunga after the former Chicken Inn man was taken out injured with 60 minutes played on Sunday after picking up an ankle knock in their 1-0 win over Black Leopards.
Lunga’s Warriors compatriot Knox Mutizwa struck the goal that decided the match.
The Warriors coaches could yet call on Bloemfontein Celtic’s Ronald Pfumbidzai, FC Platinum’s Kelvin Moyo and Hadebe to fit in the role.
“Lunga was injured on Sunday and there is absolutely no chance that he will be in the team. The coaches are not going to call in any replacements. They have indicated they will work with the 22 players in camp.
“I think we have a large pool already and there are players in that squad who are capable of playing in the position as well,” said Mpandare.
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs)
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars)
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Danny Phiri (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah Stars), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvellous Nakamba (Club Brugge KV)
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Knowledge Musona (RSC Anderlecht), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows)
Auguy Kalambayi (Sanga Balende), Joël Kiassumbua (Servette FC/ Switzerland), Nathan Mabruki (DCMP), Anthony Mossi (Chiasso/ Switzerland), Matampi Vumy (Al Ansar Club Medina/ Saudi Arabia), Jordan Botaka (Sint Truiden/ Belgium), Nelson Munganga Omba (Vclub), Glody Ngonda Muzinga (Vclub), Djuma Shani (Vclub), Fabrice Ngoma Lwamba (Vclub), Makusu Mundele (Vclub), Yannick Bangala Litombo (Vclub), Djos Issama Mpeko (TP Mazembe), Arsene Zola (TP Mazembe), Glody Likondja (TP Mazembe), Mika Michee (TP Mazembe), Kevin Mondeko (TP Mazembe), Ben Malango (TP Mazembe), Elia Meschak (TP Mazembe), Paul-Jose Mpoku (Standard Liege/ Belgium), Christian Luyindama (Standard Liege/ Belgium), Firmin Mubele (Toulouse/ France), Cedric Bakambu (Beijing Gouan/ China), Britt Assombalanga (Middelsborough/ England), Benik Afobe (Stoke City, England), Bobo Ungenda (Primeiro de Agosto/ Angola), Jonathan Bolingi (Antwerp/ Belgium), Junior Kabananga (Astana/ Kazakhstan), Chadrac Akolo (Stuttgart/ Germany), Wilfried Moke (Konyaspor/ Turkey), Jacques Maghoma (Birmingham city/ England), Chikito Lema Mabidi (Raja Casablanca/ Morocco), Gael Kakuta (Rayo Vallecano/ Spain), Jordan Ikoko (Guigamp/ France), Yannick Bolasie (Aston Villa/ England), Arthur Masuaku (West Ham/ England)