BY HENRY MHARA
THE Warriors’ technical team led by coach Sunday Chidzambga is facing a team selection quandary that has forced them to drop former captain Willard Katsande from the squad that faces Congo Brazzaville in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) group G qualifier next month.
Chidzambga was expected to name the provisional squad this week for the crucial match set for the National Sports Stadium on March 24, but postponed the announcement to next week due to the absence of top Zifa officials who are away in South Africa.
However, NewsDaySport can exclusively report that Katsande, who bounced back into the Warriors fold in the team’s penultimate Group G Afcon qualifier away to Liberia – to end his two-year self-induced exile – is not part of the 30-man provisional squad for the match against Brazzaville.
Highly-placed sources told this publication that Chidzambga was not convinced by the gritty midfielder’s display away in Monrovia where the Warriors fell 1-0.
Katsande’s recent poor form for his South African Premier Soccer League side Kaizer Chiefs, according to another source, had made matters worse for the former Highway player.
“Willard has been a very good servant for the Warriors over the years, but it is time he gives the other new crop of players a chance. He had made a good decision by retiring from international football and should have stuck with that. Coming back to the Warriors was a bad idea, and he was badly exposed in the match against Liberia. We have decided to look for other players who can play better in his position,” a source in the Warriors technical team said.
“Remember, we included him in the team because Danny Phiri was injured, but he has recovered now and is available for selection.”
Katsande called time on his international career upon the team’s return from the Afcon finals in Gabon two years ago.
But he later had a change of heart and was subsequently picked by Chidzambga for the trip to Liberia, where the Warriors needed to avoid a defeat to reach the Afcon finals in Egypt this July.
The 33-year-old combative midfielder has been struggling for form at Chiefs of late and reports in South Africa suggest his future at the club is on the edge.
He started on the bench for the Soweto derby against Orlando Pirates a fortnight ago, and did not make the final 18 squad for the team against third-tier club Magic FC in a cup match at the weekend.
“Willard is struggling for game time at Kaizer Chiefs and Mhofu (Chidzambga) wants players who are playing regularly for their clubs, that is why Kuda Mahachi was dropped the last time,” another source said.
Mahachi has been included in the current squad after some cameo appearances for Pirates, but the source said his position is threatened by the availability of some players born abroad who have committed to avail themselves to play for the Warriors.
Chidzambga, according to the source, has kept faith in the squad that has been doing duty in the qualifiers, with Phiri the only major inclusion, having missed the last two qualifiers at home against the Democratic Republic of Congo and away to Liberia due to an injury.
England-based defender Tendayi Darikwa has also returned after serving his suspension, which saw him missing the trip to Monrovia.
Macauley Bonne of Leyton Orient in the England National League and German-based Kelly Lunga have been included in the provisional squad, although they are yet to acquire Zimbabwean passports.
Warriors manager Wellington Mupandare told NewsDay Sport early this week that Lunga had already sent his papers to Harare for processing of his Zimbabwean passport, while Bonne is expected to submit his at the Zimbabwean embassy in London to begin the process.
The highly-rated 23-year-old Bonne has featured for the Warriors before in friendly matches, but requires a Zimbabwean passport to play in competitive matches.
If he gets the passport, he will compete for a place in the team with strikers Knox Mutizwa, Tino Kadewere and Evans Rusike, who are part of the squad to be announced next week. Chidzambga’s men need to avoid a defeat against Congo Brazzaville to book a place at the Afcon finals.