Midnight COSAFA Squad draws mixed reactions

23 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
Midnight COSAFA Squad draws mixed reactions BACK IN BUSINESS . . . Zimbabwe coach Jairos Tapera (left) and his technical advisor Sunday Chidzambwa will once again lead the Warriors into battle, albeit, this time, at the Cosafa Cup tournament

The Sunday Mail

Langton Nyakwenda

THE announcement of Zimbabwe’s squad for the Cosafa Cup at almost midnight on Friday raised some eyebrows, but fans and analysts have since shifted their focus to the personnel selected for the regional tourney.

The new-look squad released to the media at exactly 11.25pm on Friday for the tournament that starts on Wednesday and runs up to July 7 in South Africa is a mixture of everything.

Youth, experience and the diaspora are all catered for in Jairos Tapera’s 22-man squad, which is expected to assemble tomorrow for a brief training session before flying out to Port Elizabeth on Tuesday.

The famous “hunt with your own dogs” statement is also alive for the squad, with nine players coming from Manica Diamonds and Ngezi Platinum Stars, which constitute 40 percent of the squad.

Tapera coaches Manica Diamonds, while his assistant Takesure Chiragwi is in charge at Ngezi Platinum Stars.

The veteran gaffer, Tapera, made eight changes to the previous squad announced on June 3.

Dynamos goalie Prince Tafiremutsa, Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Emmanuel Jalai (Dynamos), Daniel Musendami (Jwaneng Galaxy), Mtokhozisi Msebe (Simba Bhora), Macauley Bonne (Gillingham), Tinotenda Benza (Herentals) and Denzel Mapuwa (Green Fuel) have all been dropped from the list.

The new entrants are Ngezi Platinum Stars keeper Nelson Chadya, Farai Banda (Manica Diamonds), Dennis Nhongo (Bikita Minerals), Leslie Kashitigu (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Donald Mudadi (Dynamos), Michael Tapera (Manica Diamonds), Never Rauzhi (Bulawayo Chiefs) and Lynoth Chikuhwa (Highlanders).

The average age of the squad is 23.

Tapera has also elected to give an opportunity to some young players born and bred in the United Kingdom.

These are goalkeeper Marley Tavaziva of Brentford B, Shane Maroodza of Huddersfield and Joey Phuthi of Sheffield Wednesday,

Only eight players are over 23 in the squad that has six players who are 20 and below.

“The average age of the players that we have selected explains everything,” Tapera told The Sunday Mail Sport yesterday.

Although he has included two 30-year-olds in his squad, Tapera’s team is largely premised on the need to look into the future.

Farai Banda (Manica Diamonds) and Richard Hachiro (Ngezi Platinum Stars) are the oldest players in a squad with three teenagers — Tavaziva, Kingsley Mureremba (CAPS United) and Phuthi.

The squad bodes well for the future of Zimbabwean football, as progression, exposure and development are catered for.

FC Porto Zimbabwe Academy coach and former Premier Soccer League player Alvin Ndunduma says the Cosafa squad reflects a will to develop youthful players.

“It’s very encouraging for the nation to have a group of talented young players being given the platform to play at the Cosafa tournament,” he said.

“I am sure they will grab the opportunity with both hands because they must end up playing on bigger stages like the World Cup qualifiers.”

South Africa-based scout Eric Bafana thinks the Cosafa tournament should be used as a platform to promote young and unheralded players.

“This is a good platform because most of the scouts in South Africa and the football legends will be there watching,” he said.

“They have been talking a lot about how Zimbabwe is lacking in terms of junior policy. Sometimes we discuss these things with other top coaches and academy owners from this side.”

Although he was baffled by the omission of Dynamos star right-back Emmanuel Jalai, junior football development coach Lloyd “MaBlanyo” Chigowe wants Tapera to be given the benefit of the doubt.

“As a coach, I would think the decision to mass the squad with players from the coaches’ teams has been largely influenced by the limited time available, so they’ve decided to hunt with the dogs they know and will instantly fit into their philosophy,” he said.

Futsal junior development coach Philip Zulu was surprised by how the Normalisation Committee (NC) announced the Cosafa squad.

He said it was unusual for a national team to be announced just before midnight, as that raises eyebrows over the selection process.

“How does the whole NC leadership resort to midnight, secretive selections and announcements of the squad?” he said.

Tapera’s squad is in sync with the direction which has been taken by most nations that will participate in this year’s Cosafa tournament.

South Africa have also announced a squad that many in that country believe could be the next generation of Bafana Bafana.

Reacting to the squad announcement on Friday, former Bafana Bafana player Benson Mhlongo said the coaches were exposing the young players to international football.

According to ZamFoot, Zambia’s squad has untested and new players, including 19-year-old Zesco United midfielder David Simukonda and the U20 duo of Mathews Banda and Sekanji Siame, who are 18.

Kenya, who replaced Malawi and are coming in as a guest participant, picked a squad of U23 players, in tandem with Football Kenya Federation’s vision of providing a platform for the nation’s “Emerging Stars”.

The East Africans are in Group B with Comoros, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s opening match is against Comoros on Thursday, with the tournament concluding on July 7.

SQUAD

GOALKEEPERS: Marley Tavaziva (Brentford B), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Geoffrey Chitsumba (Manica Diamonds)

DEFENDERS: Shane Maroodza (Huddersfield), Isheanesu Mauchi (Simba Bhora), Tawanda Chisi (Manica Diamonds), Thubelihle Jubani (Manica Diamonds), Farai Banda (Manica Diamonds), Dennis Nhongo (Bikita Minerals)

MIDFIELDERS: Joey Phuthi (Sheffield Wednesday), Tatenda Tavengwa (Venda FC), Leslie Kashitigu (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Richard Hachiro (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Donald Mudadi (Dynamos), Kingsley Mureremba (CAPS United), Tinotenda Meke (19) (Green Fuel), Panashe Mutimbanyoka (FC Platinum), Juan Mutudza (FC Platinum)

FORWARDS: Michael Tapera (Manica Diamonds), Never Rauzhi (Bulawayo Chiefs), Takunda Benhura (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Lynoth Chikuhwa (Highlanders)

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