Warriors face hurdles as Desert Foxes loom  

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Godknows Matarutse

IT IS going to be difficult for the Warriors to prepare for their 2022 Afcon Group H back-to-back qualifiers against Algeria in November due to a myriad of challenges faced by the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa).

The Warriors will resume their qualification campaign with two mouth-watering clashes against the reigning African champions between November 9 and 17.
Zimbabwe will then complete their campaign with matches against Zambia and Botswana between March 20 and 31 next year.
However, Zifa faces a mammoth task to ensure all the matches go ahead smoothly especially those forthcoming matches against the Desert Foxes.
Initially, those two matches were supposed to have been staged in March but were postponed due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Even then, the Warriors were supposed to host their home leg of the qualifiers on foreign soil in South Africa after the Confederation of African Football (Caf) deemed all local stadia unfit for international events.
Since then, the government and the Bulawayo City Council have been busy renovating the National Sports Stadium and Barbourfields Stadium in order for the two venues to meet Caf standards.
There is a high possibility that when Caf stadium inspectors return to evaluate the progress made at the two venues, Zimbabwe will remain banned from hosting international matches.
This will create a huge challenge since it will not be easy for Zifa to seek an alternative venue in neighbouring countries due to the current travel restrictions in place due to Covid-19.
Zifa spokesperson Xolisani Gwesela said they will only make contingency plans once Caf has made a determination.
“We will advise in due course because the final decision rests with Caf. I’m sure you have the background to this. But at the same time we encourage stadia owners to move with speed and make our stadia meet Caf requirements,” Gwesela told the Daily News.
Another major stumbling block standing in the Warriors’ way ahead of the Algeria matches is the inactivity of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL).
The 2020 season should have commenced in March but was postponed after the outbreak of the novel virus.
Since then, domestic football has been in limbo with Zifa yet to table their return to play protocols to the government for approval.
Warriors coach Zdravko “Loga” Logarusic is facing a huge dilemma as a number of local players he would have wanted to select for those matches are currently inactive.
The situation has also been made worse after Fifa recently ruled that teams will no longer be sanctioned if they refuse to release players for international duty if they have concerns over Covid-19.


There is a possibility that most of the foreign-based players Logarusic was hoping to call up for the upcoming qualifiers will not be available.
Gwesela admitted that Covid-19 has presented the association with a huge challenge but they will have to look for recourse.
“It’s difficult to work speculatively; we are currently in abnormal times so the best way forward for us is to stand guided by Caf. Again on the issue of players, we can only be guided by Fifa and Caf regulations,” he said.
Another pressing issue currently grappling the association is the appointment of a substantive team manager for the Warriors.
Zifa advertised for the post last year after the Warriors technical team was disbanded following coach Sunday Chidzambwa’s resignation after the 2019 Afcon finals.
At the moment, Wellington Mpandare, Clement Matawu, Vitalis Takawira and Agent Sawu are all linked with the
vacant post.
The team manager is responsible for coordinating all the call-ups, travel arrangements and other logistics for the players.
Covid-19 has brought about numerous complications giving this already important role more currency but it seems Zifa are taking their sweet time to make a decision. Gwesela said all the functions of team manager are currently being handled by the Zifa secretariat at the moment.  
“That is being done from office. We have done it before. It’s done administratively and should we have any changes we will advise. We have no challenges in that area,” he said.

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