By Goodwill Zunidza
SPAIN-BASED goalkeeper Martin Mapisa will arrive in the country the week after next for his first stint with the Warriors, virtually set to be the first choice shot-stopper.
Mapisa is keeping the sheet clean for Zamora FC in the third-tier league of Spanish football and with game-time a very big factor in how the senior national team will line up, the 21-year0-old gloveman is everyone’s favourite for the position.
Actually, Mapisa’s trending confirmation of his availability for the forthcoming African Cup of Nations back-to-back qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia is the only positive vibe coming out of the Warriors corner.
Preparations are in jeopardy with nothing moving, presenting the real threat of Zimbabwe missing qualification at the last minute having started the campaign in promising fashion.
The match against the Zebras takes place on March 25 in Gaborone, less than three weeks away but the date camp will commence is yet to be revealed.
This is not to talk of the travelling modalities from Harare to the Botswana capital.
But before we even get there, Croat coach Zdravko Logarusic, who only jetted back from Zagreb on Wednesday, is not even aware of which players, apart from Mapisa, will report for camp.
The coach announced a 38-man squad, roughly three teams with five substitutes, and he must trim it to 18 players from a training camp that will in all probability last just a week.
That’s an awkwardly heavy workload for the 54-year-old to ponder.
In justifying his decision the Warriors mentor said the purpose was to ensure there still remained enough personnel to make a team should some selected players fail to make it for camp due to tightened global Covid19 travel regulations.
Logarusic did not explain his next card if, for example, the players to miss camp turned out to be all midfielders.
As it is, all the four goalkeepers he named among the 38 players, three of them foreign based, have indicated they will turn up, which means some are travelling for nothing as only two can make the travelling team.
Indeed, the United Kingdom-based contingent in the provisional squad has been forced to withdraw enmasse leaving some gaping holes.
The development robbed the team of the hugely-anticipated presence of Aston Villa linkman Marvellous Nakamba, regular defenders Tendai Darikwa and Jordan Zemura plus prospective starting strikers Admiral Muskwe and Brendon Galloway.
As if that were not alarming enough, the France-domiciled duo of Tino Kadewere and Marshall Mudehwe are in doubt, given the rigorous medical checks they will have to undergo to and fro due to Covid-19 regulations.
It cannot get any worse. Of the Europe-based stars who have indicated willingness to fly in for the double-header, captain Knowledge Musona and centre-back Teenage Hadebe, from Belgium and Turkey respectively, are walking wounded.
Both players, along with the influential Kaizer Chiefs forward Khama Billiart, have endured lengthy spells on the sidelines through injury and might not contribute much on the pitch.
There is the added ongoing conundrum of football inactivity for locally-based players who received the call-up despite being holed up in their different homes.
The coach himself is battling his own work permit issues, with the national football body Zifa hoping it can be issued before the eve of the first encounter, failure of which either of two assistant coaches Lloyd Chitembwe and Tonderai Ndiraya would take charge for not only the Botswana clash but that against Zambia, four days later in Harare.
Zimbabwe must win at least one of those matches and avoid defeat in the other tie to secure their ticket to the continental tournament next year.
Currently, the boys are in a commanding second place to already-qualified Algeria but have just five points, one ahead of Botswana and two in front of Zambia who have managed three points.
But it is in these last-gasp moments that the local football authorities have often failed to plan and on countless occasions we have been eliminated at the final hurdle.