By Eddie Chikamhi
WARRIORS coach Sunday Chidzambwa says the 2018 Zimbabwe Independence President Cup showdown against plucky neighbours Botswana at the National Sports Stadium this afternoon is an opportunity for the local-based players to fight for their places in the senior national football team.
The high-profile match comes as part of the celebrations for this year’s Independence Day.
The two neighbours, whose relations have improved significantly since President Mnangagwa took over as the country’s leader are set for a battle royale.
Chidzambwa yesterday hailed the match as an important platform for the breed of players, who have been excelling at their clubs in the domestic Premiership, to show they can make the leap into the Warriors.
Apart from entertaining the home fans and delivering a perfect Independence Day present, Chidzambwa said he was mainly looking ahead to the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers which resume in September.
The 65-year-old gaffer has been working hard in the last few months to mould a strong team for the remainder of the campaign and last month he led a team, comprising mostly of untested foreign-based players, to a Four-Nations tournament in Zambia.
And today the team takes a different complexion again with goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya, Divine Lunga and Jimmy Dzingai the only survivors from the squad that was called for the Zambian tournament that also featured South Africa and Angola.
“I think this game was meant for, or is meant for, local-based players. We also need to see some of these players who are doing well for their clubs and you never know they may have the potential to make it in the national team,” said Chidzambwa.
“As coaches, we are looking ahead to the AFCON games. I think we really need to look at each and every player available in this country.
“We need all the good players for that tournament and I am sure when we get to September we will be having a very strong side.”
Chidzambwa is confident they are on the right track with their integration programme with new faces such as the Ngezi Platinum duo of Clive Augusto and Michael Charamba and Ian Nyoni of Chapungu getting their first national team caps.
There are also some relatively experienced players in the team like goalkeeper Mawaya, Ocean Mushure, Farai Madhananga and Liberty Chakoroma.
Chidzambwa yesterday welcomed the bulk of the players and conducted an afternoon workout with the assistance of his lieutenants Lloyd Mutasa, Rahman Gumbo, goalkeepers coach Brenna Msiska and fitness guru Thompson Matenda.
“When we went to Zambia we never had the chance to train. At least, for this game, we have one day to look to the players so we are fine,” said Chidzambwa.
The technical team was still sweating over the availability of five players who had not made it from Bulawayo by the time the afternoon training started.
The trio of Highlanders defenders Peter Muduhwa, MacClive Phiri and their skipper Honest Moyo had not pitched up late in the afternoon.
Moyo was reported to be injured.
Only Muduhwa was expected late in the evening to join fellow defenders Steven Makatuka, Kevin Moyo and Byron Madzokere in the fight for places.
Chicken Inn defender Divine Lunga was also doubtful, prompting Chidzambwa to call for back-up by turning to Yadah skipper Dzingai, who was not included in the initial squad.
“Basically most of the guys are in camp except most of those from Bulawayo. But I am told Peter Muduhwa is arriving any time in the evening. So, as coaches, we will have to deal with what we have.
“I think we have got enough ammunition to face Botswana and I think we have a reasonably strong side,” said Chidzambwa.
Botswana were expected in the country last night with basically the same squad that edged Lesotho 1-0 in a friendly match two weeks ago.
Goalkeepers: Takabva Mawaya (ZPC Kariba); Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
Defenders: Peter Muduhwa (Highlanders); Steven Makatuka (CAPS United); Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum); Byron Madzokere (Yadah Stars); MacClive Phiri; Jimmy Dzingai (Yadah); Devine Lunga (Chicken Inn)
Midfielders: Winston Mhango (FC Platinum); Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars); Innocent Mucheneka (Chicken Inn); Michael Charamba (Ngezi Platinum Stars); Ian Nyoni (Chapungu); Ocean Mushure (Dynamos); Raphael Manuvire (Dynamos); Farai Madhanaga (FC Platinum); Leeroy Mavhunga (Yadah)
Strikers: Clive Augusto (Ngezi Platinum Stars); Ishmael Wadi (Bulawayo City); Terrence Dzukamanja (Ngezi Platinum Stars)
Goitseone Phoko; Bophelo Kealeboga; Lesego Keredilwe; Thato Kebue; Tshepo Maikano; Tapiwa Gadibolae; Thero Setsile; Lesenya Ramoraka; Alphonse Modisaotsile; Gape Mohutsiwa; Thatayaone Witness Kgamanyane; Kobamelo Kebaikanye; Onkabetse Makgantai; Kabelo Seakanyeng; Gift Moyo; Keeagile Kobe; Tebogo Sembowa; Ontiretse Jerome; Otto Ramatlhakwana. Coach: David Bright