By Ellina Mhlanga
TEAM Zimbabwe UK chief executive Marshall Gore has revealed that since Tendayi Darikwa’s breakthrough to play for the Warriors after getting his Zimbabwean passport, there has been a ray of hope for other players who were now getting frustrated over their prospects of ever playing for the senior national soccer team.
Darikwa became the first of the UK-based players — who include the likes of Macauley Bonne, Adam Chicksen, Kundai Benyu, Tristan Nydam and Germany-based striker Kelvin Lunga — to regularise his documents and become eligible to play for Zimbabwe.
The Nottingham Forest defender featured in the Warriors back-to-back encounters against the Democratic Republic of Congo in October after he finally secured his Zimbabwean passport.
Gore said Bonne’s agent has been in touch with them so that they can work on having his documents in place ahead of Zimbabwe’s final Group G game against Congo Brazzaville next year in March.
“Actually the progress that has been made is that after we managed to get Darikwa’s passport sorted out for him to play, it was very encouraging and motivating for the other players.
“We have got players like Macauley Bonne who were getting a little bit dejected about the whole situation. I actually got a phone call from his agent saying ‘listen we are ready to get this out of the way now and see him get his passport sorted out’.
“They want him playing. So Tendayi’s situation helped to make it a reality. So we are now working on Macauley,” said Gore.
There had been challenges around the issue and Warriors coach Sunday Chidzambwa could not include the players for the COSAFA Cup due to the unavailability of passports.
Darikwa had a good start with the Warriors when he featured in their back-to-back encounters against DRC, winning the away game in Kinshasa 2-1 and then settling for a 1-1 draw at the National Sports Stadium.
Gore said there are young players that have graduated from their system who stand a chance to play for the national Under-23 side.
“We have had some young boys that have made it into professional football that came from our stable Team Zimbabwe UK, Seth Patrick and Shama Bako. They are now playing professional football in Germany.
“They are ready, we have spoken with them of the opportunity and we have already started to prepare them since it’s important to prepare them in advance. So they are playing now with hope and we tell them that you have to continue playing to get the opportunity.
“So overall we have made a lot of progress with Darikwa and Alec Mudimu. Alec has actually been short-listed for Sportsperson of the Year for the Zimbabwe Young Achievers Awards that are taking place in UK this week.
“So it’s good for him, he is excited about that opportunity. He is excited that he is being recognised by the community after a sterling job he has been doing with the national team,” said Gore.
The other players they are looking at are Farai Matutu, who is playing for Michigan State in the United States, Kudzaishe Manyonga and Bradley Mupambawashe, who is based in Canada.
Apart from their drive to engage the players with Zimbabwean roots to play for the national teams, Gore said they would want to help the national team by facilitating for friendly matches for the Warriors in the UK if they qualify for next year’s African Cup of Nations finals.
Zimbabwe lead Group G for the 2019 AFCON qualifiers with eight points from five games and need at least a point when they host Congo Brazzaville in their final group game next March.
Liberia are second with seven points followed by DRC with six points.
Congo are at the bottom of the table with five points.
Gore also said that they are working on engaging Santos Football Club from Brazil for exchange programmes targeting local coaches.
“One other thing we are working on, we are working on partnerships with Santos Football Club in Brazil to do a coaching exchange programme. They have already advised us that they will be willing to do an exchange programme where either their coaches come in here to Zimbabwe or our coaches go to Brazil.
“We have communicated that to ZIFA, so it’s only a matter of when it can be arranged to take place,” said Gore.
Team Zimbabwe UK are also considering going broad by roping in other sport codes to their programme such as boxing and rugby.
“I am due to meet the Secretary for Sport with view to expand, Team Zimbabwe UK is not only limited to football, we need to expand it to other sport, boxing, we have already started scouting our boxers. We also want to expand it to rugby. “So the plan is to go through the Ministry of Sport now to engage and expand this programme so that it can also cover other sports and not limited to football. And we have already started collecting the database of our boxers who will want to represent the country at the African Games.
“And we are also looking at athletes that are professional that can actually participate for Zimbabwe,” said Gore.