Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
ZIFA have, for the first time, said they never banned any of the Warriors from being picked for national duty after the 2019 AFCON debacle. The absence of a number of regular players, who usually play for the team, in the squad that featured in the 2022 World Cup preliminary round qualifiers against Somalia, was widely attributed to a ban effected by the domestic football leaders.
This followed a statement, which the ZIFA officials issued, suggesting they had dissolved the Warriors in the wake of the disastrous Nations Cup campaign.
The Warriors’ 2019 AFCON camp in Egypt was hit by a number of boardroom battles between the players and ZIFA officials over bonuses and allowances.
And, on their return home, ZIFA leaders said the national team had been dissolved and only players, who showed a certain level commitment to the national cause, would be considered.
A number of regulars – including Knowledge Musona, George Chigova, Khama Billiat, Ovidy Karuru and Edmore Sibanda – were not named in the squad for the World Cup preliminary round, first leg, qualifier against Somalia.
However, Billiat and Karuru were considered for the reverse fixture in Harare where the Kaizer Chiefs forward scored the decisive goal that swept the Warriors into the group stages of the qualifiers.
Billiat said he still wanted his partnership with Musona, saying the Smiling Assassin always brought the best out of him, whenever they played for the Warriors.
He said Musona’s presence also lifted the burden, of delivering the goals, from many of the Warriors, because of his excellent conversion rate for the team, leaving them to play with more freedom.
Responding to questions from the media yesterday, the ZIFA leaders said although what some players did in Egypt deserved to be punished by banishment from the national team, they had not banned any player.
“There is no player who was banned, the coach is free to select any player he wants to,” said ZIFA president Felton Kamambo.
“If you remember there are players like Khama (Billiat), Ovidy (Karuru) who were not part of the first leg but were called up for the second leg.”
The ZIFA boss said, when a ban is effected, the association officially advise those who would have been sanctioned through written correspondence.
None of the players who were in Egypt, said Kamambo, ever received a letter from ZIFA advising them they would not be considered for national duty.
The ZIFA officials said they had come up with a process where, in the event a player they believed did not behave accordingly in Egypt is called into the national team, would have to undergo a rehabilitation.
That exercise, the local football leaders said, including sitting down with those players and making them understand the importance of representing their country and where they might have erred during the Nations Cup adventure.
Kamambo’s deputy, Philemon Machana, also reiterated that no player had been backlisted from the Warriors.
“You remember we issued a statement soon after AFCON where we said the team has been disbanded, in future if it is felt that some players did not conduct themselves properly they will be talked to,’’ he said.
“It does not need to be him (Kamambo), it can be anyone from the executive, the team manager, the secretariat of the coach to talk to the players.
“Certain things happened in Egypt, which called for banning if we want to be strict, (but) we feel we need to give the players a chance and for, now, no player is banned.’’
ZIFA board member, Farai Jere, who is also the Premier Soccer League chairman and ended up playing the role of Warriors’ head of delegation in Egypt, also said no player was banned from playing for the national team.