By Tadious Manyepo
LOCALLY-BASED players, who have been drafted into the provisional Warriors squad for the final two 2021 AFCON fixtures, are set to go into a secure bio-bubble camp on March 12.
This is meant to allow them time to train, in a bio-secure bubble, before the foreign contingent join in about 10 days later.
Zimbabwe play Botswana, in the penultimate round of the qualifiers, on March 25 in Gaborone, before they host Zambia, at the National Sports Stadium, four days later.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding the availability of some of the foreign-based players, especially those from England and the United States, due to coronavirus protocols in those countries, coach Zdravko Logarusic, named a bloated 38-man squad for the twin fixtures.
He included seven home-based players, six from the team which did duty in the ill-fated CHAN finals in Cameroon in January, as well as FC Platinum’s Brian Banda.
Harare City’s Tatenda Tavengwa, the Bulawayo Chiefs’ pair of Farau Matare and Shadreck Nyahwa, Carlos Mavhurume, who turns out for CAPS United, King Nadolo and goalkeeper, Ariel Sibanda, who play for Dynamos and Highlanders, were all included in the squad.
National teams general manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday confirming the local players will go into camp in two weeks’ time.
But, that will depend on who will make the final team, based on the availability of the number of those plying their trade, outside the country.
“The idea is to go for an early camp, with the local contingent, including all the members of the technical team currently in the country,” Mpandare said.
“This will enable the players to have some time together and, if our application for a waiver to start training, is approved by that time to also allow them to train.
“But, the main purpose, in the first place, is to place them in a bio-secure bubble and wait for the others, who would also be tested upon entry into the country.”
All the local players, save for Banda, last featured in competitive football over a month ago, when the Warriors were booted out in the group stages of the CHAN tournament in Cameroon.
Banda last played in the CAF Confederation Cup play-off against Senegalese giants Jaaraf last month.
His club, FC PLatinum, were eliminated by the Senegalese team.
Banda, like all the players in this country, has been training alone at home since the elimination of his team.
Football remains banned in the country and the rusty local players will have, at most two weeks, to prepare for the AFCON qualifiers, that is if ZIFA get clearance, for them to train.
But, as to who is going to make it into the final camp, depends on who is available from the foreign-based contingent.
“At the moment, we can’t say all the seven will be going into camp. The coach named an enlarged Warriors squad for a reason,” said Mpandare.
“Some will make it while others might not make it.
“So, by that time, we will have a clearer picture on who will be in, and who will be out.
“But, certainly the local-based players will have to be in the bubble by March 12.”
The England-based crew of Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba, Brendan Galloway, who plays for Luton, as well as Bournemouth’s Jordan Zemura and Wigan Athletic’s Tendayi Darikwa and Wycombe Wanderers’ Admiral Muskwe, are all doubtful, because of Covid-19 protocols in that country.
The pair of Tatenda Mukuruva and Tendai Jirira, who are based in the United States, are also not guaranteed a trip back home.
The two failed to report for last year’s back-to-back ties against Algeria, due to complicated logistics, brought about by the coronavirus epidemic.
Captain Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat have been nursing injuries but the skipper has said he is confident he will be available for the two games.
Musona was set to play for his Belgian club, AS Eupen, yesterday.
The trio of Zimbabwe, Zambia and Botswana are fighting for the remaining sole qualifying ticket.
Defending champions, Algeria, have already sealed their place for the AFCON fiesta, after accumulating 10 points, from four games.
The Warriors are second on five points, one ahead of third-placed Botswana with Zambia, at the basement, on three points.
Zimbabwe will join Algeria if they beat Botswana away and Zambia fail to win against Algeria at home.