Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
KHAMA BILLIAT flew into Harare yesterday for an assessment by the Warriors medical team today, amid concerns the Kaizer Chiefs star is unlikely to shake off an injury that could rule him out of his second straight 2019 AFCON qualifier when the Warriors take on Congo in Brazzaville on Sunday.
Billiat remains hopeful he could shake off the hamstring strain from the MTN8 semi-final, second leg battle against Kaitano Tembo’s SuperSport United, last Saturday, which Chiefs lost 0-1 to crash out of the tournament.
However, there are genuine concerns the diminutive forward could be sidelined for weeks and just like ahead of the first 2019 AFCON qualifier against Liberia at the National Sports Stadium in June last year, he might not be available for the match against Congo.
Sunday’s match at the Stade Alphonse Massamba Debat will be handled by top South African referee Victor Gomes with the assistance of his countrymen Zakhele Siwela, Johannes Moshidi and fourth official Thando Helpus Ndzandzeka.
But there is a big doubt over the availability of Billiat after he picked up a hamstring injury at the FNB in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Despite carrying the injury, Billiat was part of the cast of South African-based players who became the first group of the Warriors’ foreign legion to fly in yesterday.
Team manager Wellington Mpandare said although there was a doubt about his availability for the game Billiat would be assessed by the national side’s medical crew this morning.
“Khama is here, he was part of the first group of foreign-based players who came in from South Africa today (yesterday) for the game. Our doctors will make their assessment in the morning and establish the extent of his injury, but we are just keeping our fingers crossed,” said Mpandare.
“The player himself is also very positive and hopeful he might just recover on time. We would like to also appreciate the fact that Kaizer Chiefs still released him even though they knew that there are injury concerns about him.”
Serbia-based forward Tinotenda Chibharo would also have to wait a little longer before he can make his Warriors debut amid revelations from Mpandare the 25-year-old striker had suffered an ankle injury while turning out for his club.
“Chibharo has a swollen ankle. He got injured while playing for his club over the weekend. He was ready to come, his air ticket was in place, but we have advised him to stay at his base because the medical report that came from the club and the fact that his ankle is still badly swollen, makes it a doubt that he could recover in time for the match.”
Mpandare said problems of flight delays had derailed the expected arrivals of Eric Chipeta from Cape Town, CEFN Druids defender Alec Mudimu and bustling striker Nyasha Mushekwi who is based in China.
“We are now expecting the guys who were affected by flight delays to come in tomorrow in time for our first training at the National Sports Stadium in the afternoon.
“Looking at those that have come in so far, they are all okay and geared up for the assignment at hand. Even their captain Knowledge has shown a lot of interest and has been in touch throughout checking on his players and the overall camp situation.
“Despite the injuries that we have had I still think that those that are available are capable of doing a great job for the nation in Congo.
“We will leave on Friday afternoon, sleep over in Addis Ababa and proceed to Brazzaville early Saturday morning, so we will still have time to have a feel of the match venue on Saturday afternoon.
“There is a stopover in Addis Ababa too on Monday when we will be returning, but I must salute the players for showing a lot of determination so far.
“They are all happy about getting back together and trying to do their best to qualify,” Mpandare said.
Former Warrior Cephas Chimedza, one of a few Zimbabwean players to score at the AFCON finals, has questioned the decision by Anderlecht coaches to keep Musona on the bench at the weekend.
“90 mins on the bench for Knowledge Musona, a decision I don’t understand after playing well the last week,” said Chimedza on Twitter.
“One thing I know,you can’t keep a good man down.”
The build-up to the start of the Warriors camp has been characterised by withdrawals through injuries of key players such as veteran defender Costa Nhamoinesu and star midfielder Marvellous Nakamba.
AmaZulu midfielder Ovidy Karuru has also been ruled out by the injury he sustained while leading the Warriors during the COSAFA Cup in Polokwane in June.
But it’s all gloomy for the British Brigade.
“There has been no joy yet on any of those players’ passports and as such we are now looking to have 25 players from the 30-man squad that we had picked initially for this camp.”
The trio of Tendai Darikwa, Kelvin Lunga and Adam Chicksen would have to wait for Zimbabwean authorities to process their applications for local passports before they can feature for the Warriors.
With no clear signal coming on the passports issue, Chidzambwa may have to extend his patience about calling on the talents of Nottingham Forest’s Darikwa, Lunga of Bonner SC in Germany and Bradford City defender Chicksen.
George Chigova, Edmore Sibanda, Talbert Shumba, Donavan Bernard, Ronald Pfumbidzai, Teenage Hadebe, Marshal Munetsi, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Liberty Chakoroma, Talent Chawapiwa, Kuda Mahachi, Khama Billiat, Evans Rusike, Terrence Dzukamanja, Byron Madzokere, Kelvin Moyo, Richard Hachiro, Alec Mudimu, Eric Chipeta, Knowledge Musona, Luckmore Nkosana, Knox Mutizwa, Danny Phiri, Divine Lunga, Nyasha Mushekwi.