BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
THE Warriors technical department is yet to finalise on the squad that will represent the country at the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations finals set for Cameroon early next month, Standardsport has leant.
Coach Norman Mapeza was expected to make public the provisional squad for Zimbabwe’s fifth appearance at the premier Africa football extravaganza on Friday, but the announcement has been shelved to next week.
One of the reasons that might be causing the delays is the uncertainty that hangs around Zimbabwe’s participation following the suspension of the Zifa board by the Sports and Recreation Commission last month, which was largely expected to invite an international ban on the country by Fifa.
However, the team is expected to go into camp this Thursday and begin preparations for the Afcon finals.
Warriors manager Wellington Mpandare revealed that the technical team was yet to sit down and finalise the squad after a number of players pulled out for various reasons while the plot to lure Khama Billiat out of retirement is yet to be effected.
“There will not be any team announcement today (Saturday) because the coach has not yet arrived in Harare but we are expecting him anytime today so that we can sit down and finalise the squad,” Mpandare said.
“But apart from the people we have made public, who will not be part of the team there are no major omissions or players, who have turned down the call up. But some of the players are still playing for their clubs and may end up injured. Hopefully nothing like that will happen.”
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Zifa has managed to keep the Warriors squad a closely guarded secret despite reports that a bloated 40-member squad has already been registered with Caf.
A number of key players such as Brendon Galloway, Marshall Munetsi and lately Marvelous Nakamba have pulled out of contention for places in the Afcon squad due to injury.
On the other hand fullback Tendayi Darikwa requested to be excused for the Afcon finals while Billiat retired from international football at the end of the World Cup qualifiers last month and teenage star Tawanda Maswanhise is yet to secure his Zimbabwean passport.
Zifa are running out of time in their bid to convince the talismanic Billiat to reconsider his decision to retire and play at the African football jamboree.
Mpandare gave an update on the Billiat situation.
“We could not travel to South Africa last week because of the Covid situation at Billiat’s club (Kaizer Chiefs), which means that all the players are in a bubble making it impossible for us to see the player,” he said.
“We are monitoring the situation to see if we can still send a team this coming week or maybe we can conclude the negotiations over the phone.”
Mapeza, who lost three of his four matches in charge after replacing Croat Zdravko Logarusic in September, will lead the Warriors technical team for the Afcon finals.
The FC Platinum gaffer will be ably assisted by Taurayi Mangwiro, Mandla Mpofu, Energy Murambadoro and Benjani Mwaruwari.
Zimbabwe are in Group B alongside Senegal, Guinea and Malawi.