Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor—
WARRIORS international defender Costa Nhamoinesu was yesterday celebrating a rare feat by a Zimbabwean as his Czech Republic outfit Sparta Prague were crowned that country’s football champions, capping a dream season for the former Amazulu and Masvingo United man. Rarely have Zimbabwean players won league championships with European clubs and secured a chance to play in the Uefa Champions League.
But from humble beginnings in the dusty streets of Masvingo, Nhamoinesu is basking in the glamour and glitz that comes with winning a major title with a European club and that it was Sparta Prague’s 36th league title in their 121-year history puts into perspective the significance of the accolade.
Sparta celebrated becoming the 2013-2014 league champions after their main rivals for the title Viktoria Plzen dropped two points when being held 2-2 by Jablonec to fall nine points off the pace.
That achievement for Sparta may have torched wild celebrations in Prague but it also reverberated in Zimbabwe’s oldest town of Masvingo where Nhamoinesu traces his roots and in being guaranteed Uefa Champions League football next season, he joins a rare breed of former Warriors internationals such as Bruce Grobbelaar and Norman Mapeza who played in that elite competition for Liverpool and Galatasary.
Until Saturday Sparta had been unbeaten in 26 starts to amass 70 points.
But Nhamoinesu who could not be reached for comment yesterday did not take part in his side’s last few games as he is still nursing a shoulder injury, which has also cast a shadow over his availability for Warriors duty.
Reports from Prague however, indicate that Nhamoinesu could be back up and running when Sparta take on SK Sigma Olomouc in their next assignment on Sunday.
In fact Nhamoinesu could end the season with two gold medals as the champions are also in the May 31 Czech Post Cup final.
But from a somewhat impoverished upbringing to winning a European football league, Nhamoinesu’s success story is stuff that fairy tales are made of.
It also capped a seven year journey that Nhamoinesu has travelled in the jungles of the European game since he was spotted in 2007 by an agent who sent him to Poland, where he began playing for Fifth Division amateur side KS Wisla Ustroniaka. In July 2008, he was loaned to Zaglebie Lubin, and was later sold to that club in summer of 2010. While at Lubin, he became one of the most highly rated left-backs in the Polish league.
However, he was also a common target of racism. In 2013, seeking an exit from Poland, he signed a deal with Czech side AC Sparta Prague although he had also received offers from Russia, Germany and Turkey.
Now after sealing the Czech championship title with Sparta, hopes are high that Nhamoinesu will return to his motherland and play a big part in the Warriors quest for a place at the 2015 Nations Cup in Morocco.
The Warriors preparations for their Nations Cup first round assignment have however, been derailed by the uncertainty surrounding the availability of some key players.
That uncertainty yesterday forced Warriors coach Ian Gorowa to delay naming the squad that will begin Zimbabwe’s quest for a Nations Cup berth.
Gorowa had yesterday been hoping to announce through Warriors manager Sharrif Mussa, a 24-man side that would have begun camp this week ahead of their trip to Dar es Salaam for the May 18 first round, first leg clash against the Taifa Stars. But the South African-based coach was yesterday forced to revise his plans amid revelations that his bid had been hit by withdrawals of some of the players he had earmarked and sounded out to do duty at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Although Mussa was not giving away much on which players had been contacted for national duty and those that had so far withdrawn or were doubtful, the coach’s plight was worsened by Fifa’s ruling that the opening rounds of the Nations Cup qualifiers fell outside the dates reserved for intentional matches in terms of the world soccer governing body’s calendar.
The Fifa announcement last week, opened the way for clubs to opt to hold onto their players without fear of any reprisals from the respective associations as they are not compelled to release them to their national teams.
With most of the professional leagues coming to a close in the next two weekends, the Warriors find themselves in “ a Catch 22 situation’’ with uncertainty now hovering over the availability of some of the foreign-based players.
The Confederation of African Football did not help matters for such countries in Zimbabwe’s predicament either by setting the dates for the start of the group stages of the Confederation Cup and the Champions League on the same weekend that the Nations Cup games will begin.
Mussa said they were now looking at having players troop into camp on the night of May 11 with the hope that there would be no further delays in the arrivals of the foreign legion in order to maximise on the expected “three to four days of training before departure to Tanzania’’
“We had been hoping to announce our squad today but some of the players we had earmarked are either indicating that they are injured or in some cases some players will be tied up to commitments at their teams and because the dates fall outside of the Fifa dates you cannot make much noise to compel the clubs to release the players.
“So the coach now needs a couple of days more to make some adjustments because we would want to announce a squad of players whose availability we will be so sure about.
“This development also means a slight change to our plans whereby we wanted to start our training camp earlier but now we would expect players to start trooping in on Sunday evening after their weekend club commitments.
The Warriors are not looking at taking chances and would want to strengthen their squad by blending the stars of the 2014 African Nations Championships and some of the country’s top players who are plying their trade in foreign lands.
Unlike the CHAN squad which drew all the playing material from the domestic Premiership, Gorowa’s Nations Cup side is expected to include some of the players such as Willard Katsande and Kingston Nkatha who have starred for Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns’ Cuthbert Malajila and Khama Billiat and Tendai Ndoro of Mpumalanga Black Aces.