Grace Chingoma Senior Sports Reporter
IN-FORM Zimbabwe international striker Nyasha Mushekwi, who is having a good season in the Chinese Super League, has bounced back into the Warriors side for next month’s 2019 AFCON qualifier against Congo in Brazzaville.
Mushekwi last played for the Warriors at the AFCON finals in Gabon last year and scored a goal, converting a penalty, at that showcase.
Coach Sunday ‘‘Mhofu’’ Chidzambwa has also drafted in former Manchester City Under-21 player Tinotenda Chibharo in the 28-member squad. The 25-year-old Chibharo plays for Serbian side FK Sloboda Uzice.
The former Prince Edward athlete left the country to study in the United States of America under a football scholarship.
He, however, abandoned the studies halfway to concentrate on his football career by joining the Manchester City developmental squad after he was spotted by his scouts playing for Winthrop University.
However, his career hit a snag before he was assisted by former Zimbabwe international Kennedy Chihuri and moved to Serbian side Sloboda Uzice.
Chibharo has been reviving his football playing in the Serbian second tier league but is currently on trials in Sweden. The technical team have been on an exercise to rope in as many footballers, dotted around Europe, and other parts of the world, as possible. They lost the services of striker Tino Kadewere to injury.
According to team manager Mpandare, Mushekwi, who has scored seven goals in the Chinese Super League, will provide strength for their attack.
“He is doing well at his club and even scored some goals last weekend,’’ said Mpandare.
‘‘If you look at the strikers at our disposal, with Tino out, Nyasha is one of the top strikers we have.
‘‘Knowledge is not an outright striker and normally operates from the left. Nyasha can match any player and our opponents are physical and to win matches and qualify for AFCON we need all our best players.’’
Mushekwi missed his team’s last match on Tuesday and his absence was felt as they crashed to a 2-5 defeat at the hands of leaders Beijing Guoan.
Democratic Republic of Congo striker Cedric Bakambu, who is likely to battle against the Warriors in October in another AFCON qualifier, scored twice on Tuesday for the Chinese Super League leaders.
Bakambu eased into second place in the Golden Boot race, with 13 goals, and is only one goal behind leader Wu Lei of Shanghai SIPG.
Nigeria’s World Cup striker Odion Ighalo is in third place with 12 goals.
Bakambu became the most expensive African player of all time when the Chinese side paid £65 million (about $87 million) to get him away from Spanish giants Villarreal.
Born in France, Bakambu rejected bids from English Premiership sides Tottenham, Newcastle and West Ham to move to the Chinese Super League.
Beijing Guoan met his Villarreal release clause of £35 million (about $44,6 million) and then paid the Chinese football association £30 million (about $38,25 million) in taxes to complete the deal for the highly-rated Congolese hitman.
Bakambu then agreed a long-term deal that is earning him £307 000 (about $391 000) a week at the Chinese club.
Bakambu’s transfer from Villarreal eclipsed £39 million ($49,71 million) which English Premiership giants Liverpool splashed on Mohamed Salah, the African Footballer of the Year, to get him from Italian club Roma.
Mushekwi’s tally of goals is even more impressive given he was initially left out of the team by his club’s former coach and only started playing regularly when the current gaffer took over.
Chidzambwa, who has through his employers, been battling to secure local travelling documents for the European contingent of players who were either born abroad or left as young children, has drafted three of those footballers in his provisional squad.
The veteran gaffer has included England-based Tendai Darikwa of Nottingham Forest and Bradford City’s Adam Chicksen.
Germany-based forward Kelly Lunga, the son of former Dynamos forward Max Makanza Lunga, has also been added into the squad.
Mpandare said they were keeping their fingers crossed praying the players will get their passports to feature for the Warriors.
“We are still pushing and hope someone from Government will finally help us get the documents,’’ said Mpandare.
‘‘We really need the players as well as a good result in the coming encounter. But we were forced to choose only three of those Europe-based players so that in the event we fail to secure the passports in time, we won’t be forced to change the squad.
‘‘Already, we have a fall-back in those positions and that is why we have quite a big number of 28 players that we have called for this match.’’
With ZIFA now dispatching letters to the players’ clubs for the release of their men, Mpandare said they were hopeful they will get all the players they have earmarked for duty.
“We have been monitoring them and we will
keep doing so in the remaining weeks,’’ said Mpandare.
“But we are glad that Teenage (Hadebe), started full training on Monday. Ovidy (Karuru) is on light training and we hope he will improve. Nakamba (Marvellous) has also been injured but is back at training,” said Mpandare.
Provisional Warriors Squad
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane), Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank), Talbert Shumba (Chapungu).
Defenders: Divine Lunga (Golden Arrows), Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), Costa Nhamoinesu (Sparta Prague), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Adam Chicksen (Bradford City), Byron Madzokere (Yadah FC).
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam), Ovidy Karuru (Amazulu), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Talent Chawapiwa (Baroka), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Orlando Pirates), Leeroy Mavunga (Yadah).
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Evans Rusike (SuperSport), Kelly Lunga (SC Bonner), Terrence Dzukamanja (Bidvest Wits), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Tinotenda Chibharo (FK Sloboda Uzice).