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Zimbabwe's foreign legion poser after Fifa ban

by Staff reporter
03 Mar 2022 at 05:45hrs | Views
THE suspension of Zimbabwe from the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (Fifa) family over government interference may reverse all the gains that had been made in trying to convince emerging talent dotted across Europe to play for their mother country.

With the Warriors struggling to make a mark at major international football competitions coupled with a lack of a clear player development plan locally, Zimbabwean coaches had adopted a Look West policy in search of talent to take the game forward.

British born stars Jordan Zemura, Tendayi Darikwa , Kundai Benyu, Brendan Galloway and Admiral Muskwe had formed the core of the current Warriors squad, and the crew represents the future of this team.

Plans are underway to lure more players with links to Zimbabwe to come and play for the country.

Coach Norman Mapeza, who was in charge of the Warriors at the January Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals tournament in Cameroon, is one of the coaches who had embarked on a mission to lure talent based in Europe to the national team.

Most African countries that have been successful on the international scene in recent times have adopted a policy of integrating all the foreign-born players into their squads, with Senegal's Afcon-winning squad boasting more than a dozen players who were born in Europe.

Several stars, including Leicester City forward Tawanda Maswanhise, Isaac Mabaya, who is on the books of English football giants Liverpool and Michael Ndiweni of Newcastle, who were all born in the United Kingdom, are some of the players who were being courted to come and play for Zimbabwe.

Maswanhise had been picked by Mapeza for the World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Ethiopia, but could not make it because he didn't have a Zimbabwean passport.

The starlet, who can play as a winger or as a striker, is the son of Jeffrey Maswanhise, a former sprinter who represented Zimbabwe at the All-Africa Games and the Commonwealth Games, between 1998 and 2002.

Mabaya recently signed his first professional contract with English Premier League side Liverpool.

Mabaya, who was born to Zimbabwean parents in Preston, England, plays as a fullback for the Liverpool Under-18s, having risen through the ranks at the club since joining its academy at the age of six.

Ndiweni, born to Zimbabwean parents in England on December 2, 2003, is seen as one of the brightest prospects in world football.

Another bright prospect, who had been targeted by the coaches, is Jimiel Chikukwa among several others.

Chikukwa was nurtured at Leeds, but was signed by Watford after impressing club scouts on trials.

"Jimiel has told me he would love to play for Zimbabwe if the call comes," said his father Jimiel Senior.

The above-mentioned players are some of the several players born outside the country, who have shown interest to play for Zimbabwe.

Other UK-based players like Reading star Andy Rinemhota, Tivonge Rushesha of Swansea, Arsenal's Reis Nelson, Tristan Nydan of Ipswich Town, and Macauley Bonne are also eligible to play for Zimbabwe, but needed a bit of convincing for them to join the Warriors.

The chaos and confusion that was triggered by the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC)'s decision to suspend the Zifa board, which saw Fifa banning the country from international football competitions, might have ruined the chances of them swearing their allegiance to Zimbabwe.

With SRC unwilling to reinstate the Zifa board as demanded by the world football governing body, it is likely to be difficult to re-engage the players even by the time Zimbabwe is readmitted into the Fifa family.

With the ban, Zimbabwe cannot participate in any Fifa-sanctioned football activities and will lose its right to grants.

This means that the Warriors will not be part of the draw for the Afcon 2023 qualifiers, among other losses.

The qualifiers are set to start in May.

The Warriors have struggled to make a mark at the international stage, and that pain and disappointment of failure triggered a soul-searching exercise among stakeholders, with coaches now turning to Europe where there is emerging Zimbabwean talent.

Although the Warriors finally made their maiden appearance at the Afcon finals in Tunisia in 2004 after decades of failure, they have endured the frustration of exiting the tournament in the group stages.

Since qualifying for Tunisia, the Warriors made it to Egypt in 2006, Gabon (2017), Egypt (2019) and Cameroon (2021), but have failed to go beyond the group stages of Africa's biggest football competition.

Source - NewsDay Zimbabwe
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