By Petros Kausiyo, Herald Sports
CHAOTIC scenes characterised the start of the Warriors’ preparations yesterday with just four players turning up for training ahead of their final World Cup qualifier against Mozambique at Rufaro on Sunday. The Warriors, who anchor the African Zone Group G standings with just a point from five matches, had insisted on getting their preparations underway with a morning session at Gwanzura.
But only four players — the Chicken Inn duo of defender Felix Chindungwe and midfielder Danny Phiri, FC Platinum’s Ali Sadiki and Triangle leftback Blessing Chimwamuchere — were present.
The four players were joined by assistant coach Jairos Tapera and team manager Patrick Mutesva for what was supposed to be a mid-morning session.
Hwange defensive rock Eric Chipeta joined camp later in the afternoon after spending the better part of the day travelling from his base at the Colliery.
There were indications, too, that FC Platinum forward Charles Sibanda, scorer of the goal that dumped Zambia out of the African Nations Championships in a 1-0 triumph for Zimbabwe in Ndola last month, was due to join camp late at night.
But that did not mask the chaos that has marred the Warriors’ preparations for the last assignment of an otherwise doomed 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign that went horribly wrong from Day One when Rahman Gumbo’s men lost to Guinea at the National Sports Stadium last year, before his successor Klaus Dieter Pagels also failed to win twice against Egypt and in the away trip to Conakry.
It emerged that the players had been left confused on whether to join camp or remain with their teams in line with directives they claimed to have received from their various club bosses.
Coach Ian Gorowa, who has had to endure a frustrating start to his tenure as Warriors gaffer, had demanded that all the players he had called up for national duty should be released as the clash was a competitive Fifa assignment, which deserved to be given some measure of respect.
But, with the bulk of the clubs electing to retain their players ahead of Premier Soccer League matches today and tomorrow, Gorowa was left facing the same scenario he encountered before the CHAN first leg tie against Zambia at home.
Then, as now, the national team players stayed at their various club bases and only joined camp after playing some mid-week league games and it was a similar tale with the assistant coaches — Callisto Pasuwa of Dynamos and Chicken Inn’s Mkhuphali Masuku — were caught in the web of confusion of the club versus country situation.
Pasuwa and his Warriors contingent were at the DeMbare training ahead of their top-of-the-table Premiership showdown with Harare City at Rufaro today while Masuku’s Chicken Inn, where the dreadlocked coach is also an assistant, were getting ready to travel to Mutare for their date with Buffaloes at Sakubva.
With just five players turning up the Warriors, for whom a fuming Gorowa was due to join camp last night, called off the training session but Mutesva maintained that the quintet that had turned up would remain in camp as he still expected more players to trickle in. Mutesva, just like Gorowa before him, took a dig the confusion that has engulfed the Warriors camp, arguing that the local football chiefs at Zifa and the PSL should have clarified with the senior team’s technical crew on the pact they had made.
The acting Warriors manager said he was praying that there would be no friction between the national team and the clubs that had released the quintet of Chindungwe, Phiri, Chimwamuchere, Sadiki and Chipeta, who could feel hard done by the move to persuade them to let go their key players while their opponents held onto their men.
“As team manager, I get instructions from my coaches and from Zifa to call up the players and communicate with their clubs and it is sad that after getting assurances that all was in order and when we should be starting training, I only have just four players and assistant coach Jairos Tapera.
“I understand it when the coach (Gorowa) gets mad about this because I don’t think that is the way of handling an international assignment.
“Yes, we did not win the race to qualify from the group but that should not mean we give up from the race completely, it is like a 400-metre race, you do not walk from the track simply because you are not in front, like a true sportsman you complete the race and that is what we should do against Mozambique and play to win,’’ Mutesva said.
Mutesva said he also feared that the chaotic events characterising the build-up to the match between the Warriors and the Mambas “could send a wrong signal about the importance we attach to the national team.
“How do we rally the fans and the corporate world to come in and support us if we don’t put our house in order and show that with us, there is nothing called a friendly match and that we take each game seriously.
“As far as I know international matches should override any other matches but now this is disappointing.
“My other fear is that we requested for the release of the players and some teams like Hwange have now been robbed of their best defender for their match against FC Platinum because they had chosen to be patriotic.
“It is the same story with Chicken Inn, and Triangle whose players are here yet there is no one from Dynamos, Highlanders or CAPS United and in the end it would appear as if these teams were being given special preference. I am just hoping that we will manage to get more players tomorrow (today),’’ Mutesva said.