ZIM FOREIGN STARS IN BARREN CAMPAIGN
Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S foreign-based football stars are likely to end the season empty-handed at their different work stations in Europe and South Africa.
The Warriors are set to go in camp on May 20 to start preparations for the AFCON finals.
Most of the players are in the business end of their league programmes while others have completed their campaigns.
Nottingham Forest defender Tendai Darikwa, Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids of Wales), Raphael Kutinyu (Azam, Tanzania), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs, South Africa) and skipper Knowledge Musona (Belgium) have completed their league business.
The Orlando Pirates duo of Marshal Munetsi and Kuda Mahachi are still keeping their fingers crossed ahead of the final round matches in the South African Premiership this weekend.
Midfielder Marvelous Nakamba’s Club Brugge also still have mathematical chances of success in Belgium.
Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said the focus was more on the AFCON tournament rather than the club achievements.
“The good thing is that most of these guys have been playing at their teams and some of them were actually the key players for their teams.
“But it’s not entirely lost for the Zimbabwean players because we have some guys who are still in the running in some of the top leagues.
“Nakamba’s team is involved in the play-offs and who knows what happens at the end of it?
“Then we have two of our players at Orlando Pirates (Munetsi and Mahachi). They are also heavily involved.
“But, like I said, the most important thing is most of our players were involved and they are injury-free,” said Mpandare.
The Pirates pair of Munetsi and Mahachi still have a chance of landing the ABSA silverware although their destiny is no longer in their hands.
There was no joy this year for Warriors poster boy Khama Billiat whose side Kaizer Chiefs are struggling to get a top eight finish.
However, Billiat yesterday told the South African media that the club’s poor form in the Absa Premiership was a big lesson to help him and the team get better next season.
Billiat told Sport24 that they still have the Nedbank Cup final to look forward to against lower division side TS Galaxy on May 18.
“I think at the end of the day I need to be professional. It’s not always going to be great, whether I was going to be here (at Chiefs) or wherever else.
“In football, you always have to go through something that makes you better as a person and a player, and I’m not used to everything. Maybe I need to get used to this for us to be better or stronger and learn.
“This is not the season we wanted but we have learnt a lot. I’m sure we are better players and it’s just that the season is coming to an end, and we’re looking forward to the next season.
“No one wants to be in this space for long, and I’m sure that it will actually give us more as individuals to put in the field,” said Billiat.
The situation was worse this year for Warriors skipper Musona whose side Lokeren was relegated from the Belgian top tier.
That would mean he will return to his parent club Anderlecht where he still has three years on his contract.
Second choice goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda’s Witbank Spurs were also relegated to the South African third tier.
Zimbabwe have confirmed an international friendly against Nigeria on June 8, a day after the COSAFA final.
South Africa and Namibia’s coaches have said they won’t use the COSAFA Cup to prepare for their AFCON finals adventure while Madagascar will not play at the tournament as they have a special programme to prepare for the Nations Cup.
Zambia, who will not be at the AFCON finals, will also send an experimental team to the COSAFA Cup.