GRITTY midfielder Willard Katsande has bounced back into the Warriors, nearly two years after he had called time on his international career with the Kaizer Chiefs hardman yesterday revelling at his inclusion in the squad to face Liberia in Monrovia next month.
The Warriors will travel for the penultimate Group G qualifier at the Samuel Kanyon Doe stadium on November 18, knowing that a point will seal their qualification with a game to spare.
Katsande — who was captain when the Warriors qualified for the 2017 edition in Gabon under Callisto Pasuwa — had announced his retirement from the senior team on their return from that Nations Cup showcase.
The Kaizer Chiefs vice captain later had a change of heart and announced that he was available for selection, which meant coach Sunday Chidzambwa could call him if he felt his services were needed.
Chidzambwa has also not been taking any chances despite the Warriors leading Group G and the veteran coach has looked to maximise on all the available talent and experience and Katsande — who has been one of the pillars at Chiefs —suits that bill.
Katsande noted yesterday that the recall comes at a time when he was itching for a return in honour of his late mother who always loved to see her son in the national team colours.
The former Ajax Cape Town man told The Herald from his Johannesburg base in South Africa that he was delighted to be back into the national team fold.
“It is always good to represent your country. I feel honoured to be back with the national team. I need to help the team achieve its goals and make sure the team qualifies for the African Cup of Nations finals. We need to go to AFCON and go beyond the group stages because we have the pedigree to do that.
“I want to honour my mother by playing for the national team again, because before she died she always said ‘it is weird to watch the team play without you’.
“For her, it was painful for me not to be part of the team, but for me even in my absence I always supported the team and I always wished them well,” said Katsande.
Despite the Warriors failing to win a game in Gabon, Katsande was one of the senior side’s stand-out players and won the admiration of Tunisian defender Syan Ben Youssef.
He however, immediately announced his retirement from international football after the group matches in Gabon, claiming the time had come for other players to come in and represent the country.
But in August, the 32-year-old revealed his plans to come out of retirement if the coaches felt he still had value to add to the national team.
With injuries having ravaged his side and limited his options, especially in attack, Chidzambwa is excited by the return of his strikers Tinotenda Kadewere and Evans Rusike.
Chidzambwa named a 21-member squad that included in-form Dynamos goalkeeper Simba Chinani, who has received his maiden national team call. The Warriors, who have been limping with injuries to some of their key men, have been boosted with news that Le Havre AC striker Kadewere and Rusike, who plays for SuperSport United in South Africa, could be available for selection.
Kadewere was injured at his peak on his last days in Sweden and has been out of action since July. But the lanky forward is now up and running.
Rusike is also back on his feet after the doctors had given him at least three weeks after picking a knock on his ankle during the MTN8 Cup final against Cape Town City last month.
Chidzambwa will also be happy to welcome skipper Knowledge Musona, who missed the return leg of the qualifier against DRC in Harare two weeks ago because of suspension.
“The good news is Knowledge is back, we also have Tino (Kadewere) and Evans (Rusike). I understand Kadewere has started training and I am told he should be fine for the match.
“Tino had initially recovered from the injury that sidelined him for this long, but then he had pulled a muscle again. All the same, he is up and about and we will assess him again when we get in camp.
“Evans is also back. Their return is obviously a boost for us. If you look at it, the last time we were short of fire-power upfront. We only had Knox Mutizwa as an out-and-out striker, but now we have more options.
“Our wish is to go to Liberia and come back with a good result that should enable us to qualify for the AFCON finals. We will do our best to get a result but I am sure Liberia will not be easy opponents in their backyard.
“They have proved that in all their home games during this qualifiers. So we are looking forward to a difficult game,” said Chidzambwa.
Chidzambwa has also had to make do without Danny Phiri, who picked an injury during warm up of the Warriors’ last assignment against DRC at the National Sports Stadium but believes Katsande’s experience will come in handy.
“Willard is in the team and I wouldn’t want to comment much about that one. As you know Danny Phiri got injured ahead of that match against DRC and is still out with that injury.
“Obviously we needed a replacement for his position. So we had to call Willard. He is a good player with a lot of experience,” said Chidzambwa.
DeMbare Number One Chinani received his first call to the Warriors, replacing Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Donovan Bernard as cover for George Chigova and Edmore Sibanda.
Chinani has been rewarded for his top form in an otherwise very average Dynamos side.
“Chinani has been doing well for his team Dynamos of late. I think he is currently one of the best goalkeepers we have at the moment in the local league. We also look to the future, so we have to give some of these guys the opportunity to rub shoulders with the national team players and prove themselves,” said Chidzambwa.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare said the team is not likely to stage any training camp in Zimbabwe as the players look set to head straight to Monrovia from their club bases on November 14.
The Warriors are looking at having at least three days to train and acclimatise to the conditions in Liberia.
“We are still looking at different scenarios but it’s most likely that the players will fly direct to Liberia from their bases on November 14 and arrive November 15,” said Mpandare.
Wales-based Alec Mudimu is also back from suspension after missing the Warriors’ 1-1 draw with DR Congo but another member of the “British Brigade’’ Tendayi Darikwa misses the trip to Liberia after picking up two yellow cards.
Zimbabwe Provisional Squad:
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs), Simbarashe Chinani (Dynamos)
Defenders: Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids), Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtic), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars), Marshall Munetsi (Orlando Pirates)
Midfielders: Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum)
Strikers: Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows), Tinotenda Kadewere (Le Havre AC), Terrence Dzvukamanja (Bidvest Wits)