By Collin Matiza
WHILE a dark cloud hangs over the availability of many Euro-based members of the Warriors, for this month’s AFCON qualifiers, goalkeeper, Martin “Neur” Mapisa, will be available.
Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, recently named a bloated 38-man squad, which is mainly composed of foreign-based players, dotted around the globe, for the two qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia.
And, young goalkeeper, Mapisa, is among the players in this squad.
There were fears that, just like the other Euro-based players, he might not make it for these two make-or-break ties, due to travel restrictions, imposed by a number of countries. The Covid-19 restrictions have also seen some European clubs barring players from travelling for international duty.
But Mapisa, who plays for Zamora CF in the Spanish Segunda Division B, yesterday told The Herald, he will “definitely” be flying back home for the two matches.
Zimbabwe take on Botswana and Zambia on March 25 and 29.
The two matches will determine whether the Warriors eitther advance to Cameroon or remain at home.
Mapisa, who is now Zamora’s first-choice goalkeeper, after taking over the gloves from veteran Jon Villanueva, said he felt honoured to join the Warriors squad.
The 22-year-old Aces Youth Soccer Academy graduate said his club were “more than willing” to release him, for these two crucial AFCON ties. He is one of the four goalkeepers in the provisional squad.
The others are Talbert Shumba, who is based in Zambia, United States-based Tatenda Mkuruva and Ariel Sibanda of Highlanders.
“I feel great to be on that Warriors list, for the two matches against Botswana and Zambia,” Mapisa said.
“I think that shows I’m doing well, where I am, and it’s another challenge again, I have to face, to help my country to qualify for the AFCON finals. “So, I’m so proud to be in that squad, to honest.
“My team can release me for national duty, this time around, without any problem, despite the travel restrictions, which are in place, due to the coronavirus outbreak in Europe and throughout the world.”
Spain recently relaxed travel restrictions of people, going out and coming in into that country, as the numbers of Covid-19 infections continue to drop.
Mapisa said he can easily fly out to Zimbabwe and his return to Spain will not be any have any challenges.
All passengers, who come from a high-risk country, must just show a certficate, confirming a negative test, when they enter Spain.
They can show the certificate, with a negative result, or other molecular techniques for detecting viral RNA with equivalent reliability, carried out just 72 hours, prior to their arrival.
The tall goalminder, who is yet to get a senior cap for Zimbabwe, said he has been in peak form, since he took over the number one jersey, from Villanueva.
He has recorded four clean sheets, in the nine league and cup games, he has played so far this season.
“I’ve played seven league games in a row and two Copa del Rey matches. So it’s nine games in a row.
“In the seven league games, I got four clean sheets, five wins, one draw and one defeat.
“I have conceded five goals and that’s when we lost 3-0 to Celta Vigo, 1-1 against Racing de Ferrol and when we won 2-1 against Unionistas. “We on the top of the Segunda Division B and we are now leading by two points,” Mapisa said.
Zamora have 28 points, from 15 matches, after having won eight games, drawn four times and lost three times.
They are two points ahead of their nearest rivals, Unionistas, thanks to Mapisa’s exploits between the sticks.
The Segunda División B season is the third-tier league in Spain.
One hundred and two teams take part, distributed in three groups of 20 teams each, and two groups of 21 teams, with eight sub-groups of 10 teams each and two with 11 teams each.
Zamora, who are under the guidance of coach David Movilla, are placed in the Segunda Division B’s Group One Group A, which has 10 teams.
And, in their last five matches they have won three times, drawn once and lost once, with Mapisa as their first-choice goalkeeper.
They shot to the top of the league standings, following a 1-0 win over Guijuelo, away from home on February 24.
They hope to maintain their lead, when they take on Salamanca, away from home this coming Sunday.
Mapisa became the first goalkeeper, from Zimbabwe, to be signed by a Spanish club in 2018, from the Aces Youth Soccer Academy.
The academy is also credited with producing the attacking pair of Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
Mapisa is one of the few Zimbabweans who have managed to forge a football career in Europe, without playing in the country’s domestic top-flight league.