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Warriors face World Cup headache

by Staff reporter
10 Aug 2021 at 06:36hrs | Views
WARRIORS team manager, Wellington Mpandare, says next month's schedule for the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, is likely to pose a number of headaches, for the senior national team. Zimbabwe are scheduled to play South Africa and Ethiopia, within a few days, in the first week of September.

According to the FIFA international match calendar, the two matches are scheduled to take place between August 30, and September 7. The Warriors are expected to host Bafana Bafana at the National Sports Stadium and then travel to Ethiopia, for the second Group G match, a few days later.

Mpandare told The Herald what has made the schedule complicated, is the fact the match against Ethiopia, will be played in Bahir Dar, some 500 km north west of the capital, Addis Ababa. Bahir Dar Stadium is the only facility that has been cleared by CAF to host World Cup qualifiers in Ethiopia. "We had hoped to host South Africa on September 4 and then travel to Ethiopia the following day,'' he said.

''But, the challenge is that the game in Ethiopia will not be played in the capital city Addis Ababa.

"We have to travel about 500km, to the match venue.

''We have been checking the flights and the unfortunate thing about that trip is that we will not be able to arrive there on the same day.

"So, let's say we play South Africa on September 4, then we leave the following day, it means we may only be able to arrive there on September 6, and the next day we play Ethiopia.

''The dates have not been confirmed yet, but it's something that we are working with in mind.''

The Warriors, however, could be forced to play their match against South Africa earlier, because of the tight schedules. Most of the foreign-based players are winding off club business, before the FIFA window, on the weekend of August 28.

But, some like Marshall Munetsi, who plays for Stade de Reims in the French Ligue 1, will be involved in a late night match against giants PSG, on August 29. Munetsi got his campaign underway at the weekend with his team featuring in a goalless draw against Nice.

''First game of season, point collected against a strong Nice side,'' he tweeted. Skipper Knowledge Musona has a game on August 27, with his Saudi Arabian side Al Tai, in the Saudi Pro League. Marvelous Nakamba's Aston Villa have an English Premiership game against Brentford on August 28. The South Africa-based contingent are likely to arrive early as they are scheduled to play their last matches, before the FIFA window, on August 25.

"It's not going to be easy because our players will be travelling from various parts of the world and, with the difficult travel arrangements during these pandemic times, we are just hoping to get everyone in camp on time," said Mpandare. Zimbabwe are hoping to get the strongest team for the World Cup qualifiers.

The Warriors were affected, in their last two assignments, in the 2021 AFCON qualifiers, when some foreign-based players failed to report for national team duty, due to the Covid-19 protocols. England-based players like Nakamba, Jordan Zemura, Tendayi Darikwa, Admiral Muskwe and the duo of French Ligue 1 players Tino Kadewere and Munetsi were not able to return home, because of the quarantine requirements.

"FIFA are taking care of that. The squad was selected and the invitation letters have been sent to the concerned players,'' said Mpandare.

''We are hoping to get all the players.

"FIFA have embarked on an exercise to determine the Covid-19 situations, in each and every country, so that no one is inconvenienced. ''Our Ministry of Health and Child Care has already responded to the FIFA letter.

"Remember, these are FIFA games and they do not want their competition to be disrupted.

''I am sure we will not have a repeat of what happened when we played Botswana, when clubs were given the leeway, to hold on to their players, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"FIFA are looking to create a level playing field. They have done it before. Last year, when we played Algeria, clubs risked US$1m fines, for refusing to release players.

''However, that was relaxed and we had challenges for the AFCON qualifying games against Botswana and Zambia.''

Under-fire Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic is expected to release the names of the squad in the coming weeks. ZIFA said Loga was given compassionate leave, to attend to a medical emergency, back home in Croatia.

Source - the herald