HARARE – Warriors interim coach Norman Mapeza wants the current noise engulfing the squad over the omission of certain senior players to end as it was distracting the national team.
Mapeza maintains he left captain Willard Katsande, forwards Matthew Rusike, Nyasha Mushekwi and Cuthbert Malajila out of his squad for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifier against Liberia due to “football reasons”.
However, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) president Philip Chiyangwa stated that all those players believed to have been the ring leaders of the boycott of the send-off ceremony before the 2017 Afcon finals will not be selected.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was scheduled to be the guest of honour at the event but the entire squad refused to attend demanding their dues.
It appears the quartet of Malajila, Katsande, Rusike and Mushekwi were the targeted individuals after they were not part of the 26-man squad called up for the June 11 match at the National Sports Stadium.
Since the squad announcement, the quartet’s omission has been the headline news and is now threatening to break team spirit in the Warriors camp.
“I was surprised; I was just reading through the press that some of the guys would pull out of the camp but I don’t want to be studying the politics; I’m a football coach, I earn my living through coaching, I earned my living through playing football,” Mapeza said yesterday.
“So for any player to say they don’t want to play for the country because of certain things which they don’t know about, I don’t think it will be okay.
“It’s also not okay for people to speculate that those guys don’t want to come and play for the national team because of certain issues; we are dividing the nation.
“We don’t have to divide the nation, let’s talk about things which will help the team and not something we are not sure about.”
The FC Platinum coach said he did not receive any undue influence to drop the quartet but chose to inject new blood into the team.
“For me never,” Mapeza said after he had been asked about the directive from Zifa to drop the players.
“I’m not the substantive coach here, I’m just here for this game so who is gonna tell me to pick this player and not that one?
“Nobody told me that but you see we have got youngsters here they also need to get an opportunity to play for the national team.
“Cuthbert (Malajila) is already 33, Nyasha is maybe reaching his 30s so let’s give youngsters a chance.
“I don’t have any problems with these guys; I worked with them before so if I really needed them I was gonna call them.”
After two days of training, the Warriors were released from camp after yesterday’s training session to allow the locally-based players to take part in league matches this coming weekend.
“We can’t say much about which areas we need to improve on, it’s just two days of training, it’s not a club, this is a national team,” Mapeza said.
“If it was a club I was going to tell you we need to work on this; we just wanted to give the guys a run and maybe know exactly what we really wanna do so when the rest of the guys join camp we know we at least have somewhere to start from.
The Warriors yesterday had a practice game against Premiership side Yadah FC with Marvellous Nakamba, Danny Phiri, Kuda Mahachi, Ovidy Karuru, Eric Chipeta, Thabani Kamusoko and Evans Rusike the only foreign-based players to be part of the squad.
Goalkeeper George Chigova and striker Tendai Ndoro arrived in the country late yesterday and could not make it in time for the training session.
The rest of the foreign-based players are expected to be in the country by the time the team regroups next Monday.