Albert Marufu in LONDON, England
PLANS are underway for Zimbabwe to play a high-profile international friendly match against either Ghana or Nigeria here if they qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations soccer finals.
This would be the Zimbabwe senior national team’s only second visit to this part of the world after almost four decades as they last toured England way back in August 1983 when they played Coventry City in a friendly match at Highfield Road.
In fact, in the summer of 1983, Coventry City faced the Zimbabwe national team in a friendly game as part of a reciprocal agreement following City’s tour of the African country the previous May.
It had been a difficult period for Coventry City’s then new manager Bobby Gould as seven first-team players — including Mark Hateley, Danny Thomas and Gary Gillespie — had rejected new contracts and left the club and Bobby was given the task of rebuilding the playing staff.
And in that match against Zimbabwe, Gould gave trials to several others with around 3 000 in attendance at Highfield Road.
The Zimbabwe team that took on Coventry City in that match had the likes of the legendary Japhet M’parutsa, in goal, James Takavada, Oliver Kateya, Sunday (Marimo) Chidzambwa, who was the team captain, Misheck (Marimo) Chidzambwa, Ephert Lungu, David Mwanza, Stanford “Stix” M’tizwa, Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, Hamid “Muzukuru” Dhana and David “Yogi” Mandigora.
Friday Phiri, Joseph Zulu, Edward Katsvere and Raphael Phiri were on the bench.
They faced the Sky Blues whose line-up had Perry Suckling, Peter Hormantschuk, Brian Roberts, Martin Singleton, Ian Butterworth, Steve Jacobs, Dave Bennett, Gerry Daly, Charlie George, Terry Gibson and Keith Thompson.
Zimbabwe gave Coventry City a good run for their money in that match before going down 2-0.
And now the Warriors could be heading back to England next year in a tour which will help them prepare for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals if they manage to qualify for the continental football showcase whose host nation will be announced early next year.
The Confederation of African Football’s executive committee will hold an extraordinary meeting on January 9 to choose new hosts for the 2019 Nations Cup.
Caf is looking for a new venue for the continental tournament after it recently stripped Cameroon of the hosting rights due to lack of progress with preparations.
And the Warriors need at least a point in the final qualifier against Congo Brazzaville in Harare in March next year to qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals.
They currently lead Group G with eight points from five games, a point ahead of second-placed Liberia.
Third-placed Democratic Republic of Congo have six points, while Congo sit at the bottom with five points.
Speaking at the CAPS United Legends UK Soccer Night Dinner & Dance at Wolverhampton’s Brookfields Club House this last weekend, Team Zimbabwe UK Director, Wellington Muringai, said negotiations for the friendly match were at an advanced stage.
CAPS United Legends UK Soccer Night Dinner & Dance is the brainchild of the Green Machine’s former star midfielder Joe “Kode” Mugabe and the aim is to fundraise for junior football development in Zimbabwe.
“We appreciate CAPS United Legends UK’s initiative to fundraise for junior football development in Zimbabwe. As Team Zimbabwe UK we always thrive for the betterment of football, not only in the UK, but also in Zimbabwe. As I speak now, we are in the process of organising for the Zimbabwe senior team to come over to England for a friendly match against either Ghana or Nigeria once they qualify for the 2019 African Cup of Nations finals.
“I would also want to urge Zimbabwe legends in the United Kingdom to give morale support to Zimbabwean kids in the United Kingdom as well,” he said.
Speaking at the same function, CAPS United great Mpumelelo Dzowa has appealed for the assistance of retired footballers in growing their brands to enable them to venture into business.
Dzowa, who was the guest of honour at the colourful function, said former players are established brands, but they need value addition.
“We need your help. Hatina kupera (we are not finished), but we retired from playing football. Joe Mugabe is a brand. Artwell Mabhiza is a brand. Someone must add value to these brands. Expose us to the business side. Empower us,” said Dzowa, who came all the way from the United States to be part of the colourful event in which guests were treated to some African dishes and music from award-winning Disc Jockey, King Alfred.
He added: “I am glad that Joe (Mugabe) and his team have taken the lead in raising funds for kids back home to give back to the community. Most people wait to be led, but am happy that Joe and company have taken the lead. I appreciate the job that all you guys have done.”
CAPS United UK legends chairman, Mugabe, thanked fellow legends, families and the sponsors — Cassava Remit, Linkpin Ltd, Bhora Africa and Pamtengo Radio — urging people to come up with suggestions of football Academies that urgently need assistance.
“This year we want you guys to come up with names of the Academies that you want us to assist.
In football you are now what we call scouts,” he said.
Zimbabwe Former Footballers and Friends UK chairman, Memory Mucherahowa, and organising secretary, Chales “Star Black” Kaseke, praised the CAPS United Legends’ initiative and also urged sponsors to also support their initiative of supporting former footballers who have fallen on hard times.
“While CAPS United UK legends seek to promote the development of the game, Zimbabwe Former Footballers & Friends UK is there to assist former players who have fallen on hard times.
We have been assisting former players in paying their medical bills from our pockets and we are appealing for sponsors to come on board,” said Mucherahowa and Kaseke in a joint statement.
Cassava Remit’s representative Tendai Nyakudya urged people to support the CAPS United legends’ initiative.
“For every transaction over £20, £15 will go towards supporting the CAPS United Legends’ initiative. We are happy to be associated with such a cause,” he said.