HARARE – For a player who voluntarily sacrificed his own wages to fly himself in and out of Sweden for the 2017 African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers, Matthew Rusike is devastated to see his patriotism questioned.
The Club Africain forward has decided to open up about his omission from the Warriors squad that beat Liberia 3-0 in last weekend’s 2019 Afcon qualifier at the National Sports Stadium.
His heart bled as news filtered to him in Tunisia that he would not be selected for future Warriors assignments after Zifa “banned” him together with Cuthbert Malajila, Willard Katsande and Nyasha Mushekwi.
The quartet was accused of being the masterminds of the Afcon send-off ceremony boycott after the players protested over their dues.
To Zifa, Rusike along with Malajila, Katsande and Mushekwi were labelled as “mercenaries”.
The argument, though, is difficult to sustain in the eyes of neutrals who witnessed the heated stand-off between the Warriors and Zifa over Afcon appearance fees and winning bonuses.
“I was not given a reason (of omission) by anyone from Zifa,” Rusike told the Daily News yesterday from Tunisia.
“I found out like everyone else, from the media, which was a bit hurtful as I am very patriotic and I love my country and the football very much.
“During qualifiers, I paid for my own flights to come from Sweden, is this the act of a mercenary?”
The Sports and Recreation Commission is yet to release its findings after setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate the problems that led to the boycott.
“I have read all the speculation about what did and what didn’t happen during Afcon and for (the) four of us to be hung out to dry for me is unbelievable but these things happen,” Rusike said.
“If it’s for the better of the group and pushing our nation forward then sometimes certain things or people need to be sacrificed.
“I have a good relationship with (Philip) Chiyangwa so maybe I will speak with him now that it’s off-season because he was there every step of the way and knows the truth.”
Despite the “misunderstanding” the former St George’s College pupil is still eager to play for the national team.
“…there is no greater honour than playing for my country. Nobody from another player to anyone from administration can put me off playing for Zimbabwe,” he said.
“It’s a shame that this year after an admittedly disappointing Afcon, I have grown and learnt a lot and currently playing some of my best football.
“I have seven goals in 13 games and this weekend we have the cup final. So not being a part of my national team was difficult to accept but I supported them all the way and massive congratulations to them and Norman for doing the job.”
Warriors’ interim coach Norman Mapeza guided the side to an impressive demolition of Liberia, courtesy of a Knowledge Musona hat-trick.
Zimbabwe now face tougher assignments in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Congo Brazzaville when the qualifiers resume early next year.
“..this is just the beginning, it’s not easy qualifying,” Rusike said.
“The road is long. Hopefully in the future I can contribute. If not I hold no grudges I will still be supporting my fellow team mates.
“Once a Warrior always a Warrior that cannot be taken from me.”