Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi
AFTER being ravaged by injuries in the last month, the Warriors camp has now had to deal with a new scourge, that of suspensions with England-based defender Tendayi Darikwa being the latest casualty.
Darikwa who has had a brilliant start to his Warriors career, quickly settling down in the right-back position, has been ruled out of the penultimate Group G qualifier, which is an away trip to Liberia in Monrovia.
The Nottingham Forest defender has picked two yellow cards in as many matches against the Democratic Republic of Congo, making him ineligible for the tie in Monrovia. He was booked in the Warriors’ 2-1 triumph in Kinshasa and saw yellow again in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at the National Sports Stadium where Khama Billiat’s opening minute strike and Teenage Hadebe’s own goal 22 minutes later decided the game.
Darikwa played the entire games in the clashes against the Leopards and not only caught the eyes of his coach Sunday Chidzambwa, but endeared himself with the fans.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare said Darikwa had received his second yellow card at the National Sports Stadium after being “controversially booked’’ in Kinshasa.
“Darikwa was surprisingly booked for seeking clarification from the referee on why he had shown Knowledge a yellow card for celebrating his goal.
“So he will now be out of the game away to Liberia. But we will also be having Knowledge and Alec Mudimu back from suspensions,’’ Mpandare said.
As the Warriors returned to their bases for club duties, Mpandare was not resting on his laurels with the enterprising manger resuming his battle to help more of the “British Brigade’’ secure their passports before the trip to Monrovia.
The Warriors need a point from their last two games against Liberia (away) and Congo at home to be absolute about their place at the Nations Cup finals in Cameroon next June.
Mpandare however, said they were not taking any chances and were looking to have their side boosted by the returns of injury casualties Tinotenda Kadewere, Divine Lunga and Evans Rusike.
Gritty midfielder Danny Phiri was also pulled out at the last minute after picking a knock during warm-up for Tuesday’s game while the extent of the injury to goalkeeper George Chigova is yet to be ascertained after he played for only 30 minutes before he was taken off following a knee injury.
Mpandare, however, said they were expecting more good news in the coming weeks as most of the injured players have made progress.
“We are hoping that Evans and Tino will be back for the Liberia game. I spoke to Tino and he said he has already started training and he confirmed he should be okay by that time.
“We are also hoping for more good news from England where Macaulay Bonne could be the next player after Darikwa to join Zimbabwe national team.
“I got in touch with him when we were in DRC and he now has his papers in order and what is left is to submit to the relevant authorities to make him eligible for Zimbabwe. The passport office is willing to assist.
“The Registrar-general’s office is also working on a plan to assist Kelly Lunga in Germany,” said Mpandare.
While Mpandare is working on securing the players passports, ZIFA are exploring the possibility of chartering a plane to fly the Warriors to Monrovia.
ZIFA vice-president Omega Sibanda said they were eager to have the qualification job sealed by the time the Warriors play their final game at home against Congo.
With eight points in the bag and three clear of second placed DRC, the Warriors now need a point from the remaining two games to confirm their place at next year’s finals.
“As ZIFA, and indeed the whole nation, we want to qualify for the 2019 AFCON finals in Cameroon. It’s something that we are looking forward to because I believe we are in the right track.
“We are so grateful to have a group of players like our Warriors, a group of players who believe in themselves.
They are so united and these guys really play with their nation at heart. They have demonstrated that in every game they have played.
“Now we have to go to Liberia to finish off the campaign. The dream is getting closer and closer and we can do it again with a game to spare like we did the last time. “The plans for that important trip to Liberia are already in place. The good news to our supporters is that we may have a charter plane to Liberia and those who would want to go should start preparing now because we are only a few weeks away. Details will be availed to the public once everything is in place,” said Sibanda.
Sibanda hailed the strong crowd that thronged the giant stadium to back the Warriors in their quest. The supporters made a strong presence but ZIFA could have been prejudiced of income as restless supporters broke into the stadium because of poor management of the gates.
ZIFA needed at least $500 000 to cover the costs of the back to back encounters.
Sibanda said the Finance Committee will have a review meeting today to ascertain the attendance figures.
“We want to thank the supporters for rallying behind the Warriors. It’s not always easy playing a team like the DRC, who have world stars in their squad, but because of unity of purpose we managed to get a result.
“The Finance Committee will have a post-mortem of the match tomorrow (today) and then give details,” said Sibanda.
The Warriors have had some encouraging statistics from their four matches in this campaign where they have scored in every outing since the first assignment against Liberia last year which ended in a 3-0 home win. Even in the matches that ended in the share of the spoils, Zimbabwe have scored first in every game and have not gone behind their opponents in all the games. They also remain the only team unbeaten in Group G with two wins and two draws. The Warriors have scored seven goals and conceded three.