Warriors camp in false start

Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
AS has sadly become the norm, the Warriors’ preparations for their final African Nations Championships qualifier against Lesotho got off to a false start yesterday with the senior team failing to go into camp in Bulawayo on time. The Warriors will host Likuena (the Crocodiles) at Barbourfields on Sunday in a match they need to win to put one foot into the 2016 CHAN finals set for Rwanda next January.

Lesotho will host the return leg at Setsoto Stadium in Maseru the following weekend. But, worryingly for coach Callisto Pasuwa, his players were still holed up at their club bases for much of the day yesterday with ZIFA only indicating later that they had secured a camping facility for the Warriors at a lodge in Bulawayo.

It, however, emerged that Premier Soccer League chief executive Kenny Ndebele had to run around to ensure some of the key logistics needed for the Warriors camp, including transport, food, training facilities and accommodation were put in place by yesterday.

Ndebele has been supportive of the CHAN squad’s cause with the PSL chief executive arguing that the success of the home-based Warriors mirrored the quality and strength of the domestic Premiership as it involved only home-based talent. The PSL’s intervention came just in time when it seemed the Warriors were likely to plunge into battle without training after ZIFA spent the last week trying without success to secure a base for the senior team in Zvishavane or Harare.

But that timely intervention by Ndebele was not before the coach and his players, who did Castle Lager Premiership duty with their clubs on Saturday and Sunday, had been left wondering whether the camp was still on or not. Pasuwa yesterday gave a chilling warning that the Warriors risked being embarrassed by their opponents because of shoddy preparations.

The Warriors gaffer was still in Harare last night after he waited to ensure that players such as Blessing Moyo, Rodreck Mutuma, Talent Chawapihwa, Justice Jangano and Ocean Mushure had hiked their way to Bulawayo. There were no such worries for the Bulawayo-based contingent who include the Premiership’s leading scorers Knox Mutizwa and Edmore Chirambadare, skipper Danny Phiri and goalkeepers Donovan Bernard and Elvis Chipezeze. ZIFA communications manager Xolisani Gwesela noted the pathetic start to the Warriors camp but blamed it on lack of financial resources on the part of his association.

“It’s true there has been a delay in the Warriors camp starting and the delay was due to financial problems for camp to start early. They are now going to camp in Bulawayo at Glen Lodge and by tomorrow night everyone should be in camp. “Gate charges are $3 for the rest of the ground, $5 for wings and VIP stand $10. We appeal to Bulawayo residents and the nation at large to come in their large numbers and support our national team,” said Gwesela.

Such an arrangement did not amuse Pasuwa who said he would have wanted the players to report for camp by Sunday night with the coach arguing that the squad he had called up was a different set of players from the side that beat Comoros in the CHAN first round qualifier.

“It must be remembered that some of the players like Evans Rusike, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Tino Kadewere, Liberty Chakoroma and Thomas Chideu who we had when the CHAN qualifiers started have moved to clubs outside the country and are no longer eligible to play. “So what we have is a new squad that needs to work on combinations and this business of training seriously for only two days will not take us anywhere. We cannot continue to bank on luck.

“We need to take our assignments more seriously and I have always said football is changing everywhere in the world not just here in Africa. “If you look at the results of the World Cup qualifiers played at the weekend and the fact that a team like Madagascar knocked out some of the big guns at the COSAFA Cup in South Africa then you will realise that you cannot take any team for granted anymore.

“We need to have better preparations and what makes our case even more difficult is that we don’t get to play friendly matches like what other countries do and we have to rely on training to do everything and assess the combinations,’’ Pasuwa said. While the Warriors were worrying about where to camp, Lesotho were bracing for their 2018 World Cup African Zone qualifier against Comoros in Maseru tonight.

The Crocodiles were in Moroni, Comoros, last Wednesday for the first leg and forced a goalless draw. Now coach Stephen Matete and his men will be fancying their chances of utilising home advantage and dispatching the Indian Ocean islanders to advance to the second round.

Lesotho will also have very little time to rest after playing Comoros as they must take the road to Bulawayo where the Warriors will be waiting in ambush for the CHAN assignment. According to reports from the game in Comoros, both teams had good chances to break the deadlock in the first half, with Lesotho’s Tšoanelo Koetle coming close from a free-kick in the 30th minute.

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