Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
WARRIORS forward Evans Rusike is cherishing a return to the COSAFA tournament, three years after making the debut in the regional tournament, which eventually opened the doors for his big move to South Africa.
Rusike, who is one of the several foreign-based players that have been called for duty in a strong Zimbabwe squad, arrived in the country last week and was among the early birds when the squad resumed preparations yesterday at the Yadah Sports Complex.
The Supersport United striker said the COSAFA tournament held in Rustenburg in 2015 gave him his breakthrough to South Africa. “I cherish COSAFA a lot because it’s the tournament that opened the doors for me to go and play in South Africa. So every time when I play at COSAFA, I play my heart out because everyone is looking.
“I always focus on helping my country first but then you never know what’s happening behind the scenes. You might be surprised who is watching,” said Rusike.
The Warriors resumed camp yesterday after the players had been given a break at the weekend to allow the home-based players to attend league matches.
National team coach Sunday Chidzambwa and his assistants Rahman Gumbo, Lloyd Mutasa and Brenna Msiska led the players as they went through their workout at the Yadah Sports Complex.
Rusike was joined by a cast of South Africa-based players who included last year’s COSAFA-winning captain Ovidy Karuru, newboy Marshall Munetsi of Orlando Pirates, Talent Chawapihwa and goalkeepers Edmore Sibanda and George Chigova.
Zimbabwe are also using the tournament to prepare for the forthcoming AFCON qualifiers which resume in September. “It’s always nice representing your country and it’s important to do well at the tournament because the coach also wants to prepare the team for the next AFCON qualifiers.
“So it’s going to be a serious tournament for us since we don’t usually get the opportunities to play friendlies.
“But then if you come with your strongest team to the tournament you also activate your opponents.
“They will also pull up their socks knowing they are playing a good side. So they will not make the games easy for us.
“But we will do our best to get the championship.
“If you are champions, everyone wants to beat you and that will make all the games a bit tough for us. But, like I said, we will fight. We are going there to get the championship,” said Rusike.
The technical team are expecting captain Knowledge Musona from Belgium today and Khama Billiat and Czech-Republic based defender Costa Nhamoinesu to join camp ahead of Thursday’s departure. The technical team also made some late adjustments yesterday when they called in Chicken Inn left-back Divine Lunga to replace Highlanders skipper Honest Moyo who has been ruled out through injury.
Midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, Ronald Pfumbidzayi and Teenage Hadebe have also been sidelined by knocks.
Chidzambwa was still happy with the progress they had made yesterday.
“We started very well but we are still waiting for some players who are coming from Europe. We only expect them tomorrow (today).
“We just hope by evening we will have a full squad and then Wednesday will be the day for the whole team to train and then we leave on Thursday.
“I think we have enough ammunition to participate in the tournament and personally I feel the team is stronger than it was last year. “Just like anybody else we would like to bring the trophy back home but in football anything can happen.
“Since we have won the tournament so many times, obviously, we will be the team to beat. However, we are prepared for anything. We need to fight hard from the first game.
“Hopefully we will get to the final and maybe bring the trophy back home,” said Chidzambwa.