WHEN a 34-member Warriors squad was announced weeks before they plunged into the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations campaign, Sunday Chidzambwa and his lieutenants seemed to have breathed new life into the international football careers of about half-a-dozen players, closed the door on a dozen others who were part of the last Afcon finals show and kept faith in those who served them with distinction in the qualifiers.
The enlarged squad had a training camp in Durban, South Africa with some of the players featuring in the Cosafa Cup — where goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze and midfielder Thabani Kamusoko, successfully pushed to make it into the 23-man squad for the Afcon finals.
Before their departure to establish camp in Durban, Chidzambwa’s assistant Rahman Gumbo, talked tough, telling this publication that “we will have extensive fitness checkups on each and every player for a week” underscoring that they were very much aware that some players could hide injuries.
The veteran gaffer insisted “we will not take passengers to Egypt . . . we will make sure that everyone in the squad is 100 percent fit after their long and taxing respective seasons at their clubs”.
Fast forward to the events that unfolded in Cairo, Egypt. We ask, was it a coincidence that we lost players to injuries after every session or match?
Football analyst Hope Chizuzu, a man who foretold the Cairo disaster, ran down the absence of ideal medical experts in the Warriors camp, asking how the national team managed to leave all the experienced doctors and took those “who forgot to do medical examinations on players”.
“Did our players pass the pre-tournament medical exam or we just certified all of them without much ado? A football tournament is serious business. Why Zimbabwe have had the worst injury worries in the history of Afcon. They are not even worrying about why Zimbabwe took injured players to Afcon including some star players,” wrote Chizuzu on his widely followed Facebook page.
Midfielder Tafadzwa Kutinyu, big goalkeeper George Chigova and Edmore Sibanda, big striker Nyasha Mushekwi, whom many questioned his inclusion in the squad, Marvelous Nakamba, Alec Mudimu, Devine Lunga and poster boy Khama Billiat all made news from the Warriors’ treatment room in a not successful campaign where there was a fist fight between team doctor Somani Mudariki and fitness trainer Thompson Matenda (all of Harare City Football Club).
They reportedly picked a fight after arguing on who was making players vulnerable to picking injuries.
And Chizuzu feels that was the biggest scandal and embarrassment at a time when Nick Munyonga, a renowned physician, who has worked the Warriors since time immemorial, was left behind.
“That happened right in front of everyone, yet nothing was said about it nor remedial action taken. All these are symptoms of lack of leadership and chaos. The levels of organised chaos are huge, almost surreal. Did that not affect the team? Why were the doctor and fitness trainer allowed to stay in camp after the fracas? Why were cries by players that they were not happy with medical team not attended to? Did that not affect team spirit and workmanship?” quizzed Chizuzu.
There were many sideshows in Egypt, at a tournament where Chidzambwa and crew were found to be tactically wanting.
It was a tournament in which captain Knowledge Musona watched in disbelief when his form took a further nosedive, Chipezeze’s howlers between the sticks cost the nation, Tino Kadewere probably fine-tuned his modeling skills, “sponsor” Nyasha Mushekwi had nothing to show, Kudakwashe Mahachi, of the Instagram petition infamy, and Knox Mutizwa, were not given time to showcase their skills, Danny “Deco” Phiri found the going tough, Teenage Hadebe blew hot and cold, Lawrence Mhlanga and Ronald Pfumbidzayi were erratic.
However, Devine Lunga and Khama Billiat had stellar performances.