BY HENRY MHARA
MACAULEY Bonne (pictured) has pulled out of Zimbabwe’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group H qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia, raising fears that the striker might be turning his back on the Warriors as he expects to get a call-up with England in future.
Born in the United Kingdom to Zimbabwean parents, Bonne is eligible to represent either England or Zimbabwe.
There were expectations in Zimbabwe that the 24-year-old, who plays for Charlton Athletic in the English Championship, would finally begin his international career with the Warriors in the two upcoming Afcon qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia.
Bonne used his Twitter account to deliver the news that he would not make it for the two matches, saying that he had to withdraw on medical grounds.
“I am both delighted and privileged to be selected to join the Zimbabwe national team and I appreciate all those involved in securing my passport,” he wrote.
“I’ve been working extremely hard at club level and to receive this is something I dreamed of as a boy. Unfortunately and reluctantly, I am unable to travel due to unforeseen medical grounds, which is a huge frustration to me, as it will be to the people of Zimbabwe. I’d like to wish the entire Zimbabwe team the very best of luck in the coming games. In the meantime I will maintain a line of communication to Welly Mpandare and the Zifa representatives.”
He secured a Zimbabwean passport last week following several years of concerted effort from himself and members of the Warriors technical team to have him regularised to play for the team.
The Registrar-General Clemence Masango announced last Friday that Bonne’s passport, together with that of defender Adam Chicksen, who plays for Bolton Wonderers, also in the English Championship, were ready.
Jordan Zemura, of Bournemouth in the English Premiership, and Cliff Moyo, who plays in the lower leagues in that country, are expected to get their travel documents this week.
Mpandare, who has played a key role in securing passports for players born abroad, yesterday confirmed that Bonne had pulled out.
The striker was part of the 24-man squad, but has excused himself despite playing the whole match in his club’s 2-1 loss to Millwall at the weekend.
Chicksen and Zemura have been dropped.
“He has indicated that he has a heart problem and has been booked by the doctors. We hope that he will come for future national team assignments because we consider him a very important player and that is why we have made efforts to get him the passport,” Mpandare said.
Having played the whole match on Saturday, Bonne’s pull-out from the Warriors squad could be viewed as a snub to Zimbabwe, with reports emerging from England that the highly-rated striker has reportedly set his sights on a possible England call-up in the future.
According to a report by an English sports radio station, Talksport, which has extensively covered Bonne’s rise from the lower leagues, the striker could be about to pause his international career with Zimbabwe as he sets his sights on a possible England call-up in the future.
The radio station believes that Bonne’s current form can see him persuade England coach Gareth Southgate to consider him in the Three Lions’ squad.
“Charlton Athletic striker Macauley Bonne could be about to pause his international career as he sets his sights on a possible England call-up in the future,” Talksport reported.
“The Addicks ace has had an excellent spell in the side as a replacement for Lyle Taylor, scoring five goals in seven starts, and given his exceptional rise at 24 years old, there is a chance he could replicate the fortunes of Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, who went from Stocksbridge Park Steels all the way to Euro 2016 with the Three Lions.”
Added Talksport: “Bonne has not turned his back on Zimbabwe, the homeland of his parents, but is considering the options he has after frustrating complications as he attempted to get a passport ahead of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament. He was ultimately unsuccessful and missed out on the opportunity to play in the competition.”
Bonne made his debut for the Zimbabwe Under-23 side in a friendly match against Morocco national team in 2014, scoring a goal.
The following year, he was called up for the 2017 Afcon qualifiers against Guinea, but pulled out of the squad due to club commitments.
He was called up again in 2016 for Zimbabwe’s Afcon 2017 qualifier against Swaziland, but was again forced to withdraw from the squad, on this occasion due to passport technicalities.
Bonne played for the Warriors in friendly matches against Namibia and Lesotho in 2017.
His unavailability could be a huge blow to Warriors coach Joey Antipas, who has also lost another striker Tino Kadewere for the two matches due to injury.
Kadewere, who is also enjoying the best form of his life in the French second division, picked an injury playing for his side Le Havre at the weekend.
The team’s other senior striker, Knowledge Musona, has struggled for game time this season, spending most of the time featuring for Anderlecht’s developmental side in Belgium.
Antipas’ only reprieve is that Knox Mutizwa has hit top form at the right moment after he scored a brace in Golden Arrows’ 3-2 win over Mamelodi Sundowns in the South African Premiership.
Mutizwa and most of South Africa-based Warriors stars were expected in camp at 5pm yesterday alongside Marshall Munetsi and Alec Mudimu, who are based in France and Wales, respectively.
Star midfielder Marvellous Nakamba and Teenage Hadebe are expected in Harare tonight.
Mpandare said Bonne and Kadewere would not be replaced, leaving only 22 players set for camp for the two Afcon matches.
The match against Botswana is set for the National Sports Stadium on Friday, before the team travels to Zambia for the second group qualifying match four days later.
The group also has African champions Algeria, who Zimbabwe will face next year.
Top two teams from the group will qualify for the Afcon finals set for Cameroon in 2021.
Goalkeepers: Elvis Chipezeze, Simbarashe Chinani, Talbert Shumba
Defenders: Alec Mudimu, Cliff Moyo, Teenage Hadebe, Devine Lunga, Ian Nekati, Partson Jaure, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Kelvin Moyo.
Midfielders: Marvellous Nakamba, Marshall Munetsi, Ovidy Karuru, Butholwezi Ncube, Kudakwashe Mahachi, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Thabani Kamusoko, Khama Billiat
Strikers: Knowledge Musona, Knox Mtizwa, Prince Dube