Warriors up their game
Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter —
ZIMBABWE coach Callisto Pasuwa returned home yesterday to take charge of the final leg of his team’s African Cup of Nations preparations as the Warriors underwent rigorous medical tests ahead of their trip to Gabon next week.
Pasuwa had left his assistant Saul Chaminuka with the duties to get the Nations Cup camp into swing while he presided over an international friendly against Cote d’Ivoire in Abidjan.
The Boxing Day game, which ended 0-0, featured mostly fringe players.
But with their coach back to direct operations yesterday, the Warriors upped their game as two more key players — Khama Billiat and Nyasha Mushekwi trooped in.
After his return from Abidjan, Pasuwa immediately joined team manager Sharif Mussa, Chaminuka and the rest of the technical crew as they watched the players undergo medicals conducted by team doctor Nick Munyonga.
The medical tests are the first major stage towards the trimming of the provisional 30-man squad that is available for selection.
Maritzburg United defender Blessing Moyo has already been ruled out because of injury.
It is the second major competition in which Moyo has had to grapple with injury problems.
In January, Moyo made the final 23 that travelled to Rwanda for the CHAN tournament but barely saw action as he picked an injury while in Rubavu.
With all but Belgian-based talisman Knowledge Musona in camp, the Warriors are now set for a busier and yet anxious five days before Pasuwa names his travelling party.
The mandatory medical check-ups, which are crucial to determine the eligibility of players for the Nations Cup, started with the foreign-based players yesterday.
But the procedure could not be completed after facing technical glitches with the machines.
Team manager Mussa said yesterday they were hoping to complete the process today.
The Pre-Competition Medical Assessment is the first stage of the selection of the players by national associations.
All participating teams have to meet this requirement which is associated with data collection of injury and doping by CAF medical officers during the final phase of competitions and inter-club matches.
Mussa said they are hoping that the Warriors players will pass the test.
“This is an important requirement for all the players taking part at the tournament. It involves a number of tests and the doctors have to fill in a lot of documents about the players’ medical history and whether they are fit or not to participate at the tournament.
“You see, the check-ups involve everything, the body, the heart, the pulse, and all and they are done using machines. So we couldn’t conclude today because of some technical challenges.
“Hopefully tomorrow (today) we can make progress,” said Mussa.
The Pre Competition Medical Assessment constitutes an integral check-up of the players to determine whether they are fit or not to participate in the competition.
The system came as a FIFA direc
tive following the tragic death of Cameroonian player Marc-Vivien Foe, who collapsed and died on the field during the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup game against Colombia at Lyon’s Stade de Gerland in France.
The Medical Information System of CAF is integrated into the Content Management System, launched in January 2014, during the African Nations Championship in South Africa.
The CAF system will help to have a clear idea of the health of players across Africa. It is also an opportunity offered to medical officers to have access to information and records regarding injuries sustained during CAF competitions.
Mussa said they had wanted to use the medical tests to also determine the amount of rest that should be given to star midfielder Billiat at the recommendation of his South Africa club Mamelodi Sundowns.
The Warriors technical team maintained they have no choice but to follow the advice proffered by the CAF Champions League winners.
Billiat checked in at the Warriors training yesterday, a day after most of the foreign based players had started training, and was excused from the morning drills.
The 26-year old however joined his teammates later in the day when they went for medicals at a city facility.
Sundowns have concurred with Pasuwa’s earlier assertion and advised that the midfielder be given time to recharge after featuring prominently in a lengthy and successful campaign that saw them winning both the South Africa Premiership title and the CAF Champions League.
Mussa said they are aware the player was in danger of burning out in the wake of the rigorous season with the Brazilians. His teammate goalkeeper Denis Onyango, who is part of the Uganda AFCON squad, was this week given five days off by the Cranes technical team to help him recover.
“Khama is here but he didn’t train. We have to follow the recommendations from his club. He has played a lot of games and they say he should get some rest, which probably is the best thing for him now.
“Once we finish the medicals then we will have a guideline of what is the story and hopefully we be able to decide whether he should start training from tomorrow or he needs another few days of rest, something like that,” said Mussa.
The Warriors only have one week to polish their act before they leave for the finals of the tournament most probably next Thursday.
Billiat also has a scheduled trip to Nigeria for the CAF Player of the Year awards after he was nominated for the Best Player of the Year based on the continent.
Big striker Mushekwi had delayed his arrival as he was reportedly sealing a fresh deal with his Chinese club and he trained with the squad before going for the medicals in the afternoon.
Swedish-based striker Tino Kadewere and the local contingent that had travelled with Pasuwa to Abidjan will also be involved in the medicals today. The other group of local players that had travelled to Cote d’Ivoire for an international friendly match also came back yesterday and will today be involved in the proceedings.
There are indications that the Warriors will leave Harare for Gabon on January 5 for a proposed friendly against the Nations Cup hosts two days later.
They would then proceed to Cameroon for a clash against the Indomitable Lions on January 10.