WARRIORS forward Matthew Rusike marked the start of the New Year with new beginnings in his career after he moved closer to completing a move to top Tunisian football outfit CS Sfaxien.The brawny forward, who has played in South Africa, Greece and recently Sweden, has chosen to take his career to North Africa following the relegation of his team Helsingborgs IF.
Sources in Tunisia said the deal was as good as done although the terms of the contract were not immediately available. Rusike left the country on Monday to finalise the switch after spending 18 months in Sweden where he also played for Halmstad BK.
Warriors coach Callisto Pasuwa yesterday confirmed that the forceful former Kaizer Chiefs striker had been excused from the team's preparations to travel to Tunisia to expedite the negotiations.
"He has gone to Tunisia, he has contract issues to attend to. Remember he was changing clubs from where he was to a new club in Tunisia. So he went for medicals; to sign a new contract. He will be back tomorrow (today)," said Pasuwa.
Rusike is one of the five foreign-based forwards that have been shortlisted by the Warriors technical team for the AFCON tournament. His energy and work rate delights the coach.
The former Young Warrior is expected to be included in the travelling squad of 23 players to be announced today by the technical team. Pasuwa yesterday dropped five players from the provisional squad of 31 that was called last month.
Ngezi Platinum skipper Liberty Chakoroma, Tendai Ndlovu (Highlanders), Raphael Kutinyu (Chicken Inn), Talent Chawapihwa (ZPC Kariba) and CAPS United's new acquisition Ronald Chitiyo were the affected players. Pasuwa had to sacrifice the quintet after the team faced camping challenges.
The other local Premiership players Marshall Mudehwe, Edwin Madhananga, Teenage Hadebe, Lawrence Mhlanga and goalkeeper Takabva Mawaya will have to keep their fingers crossed as the coach has to make a brave decision today to axe three more.
"Initially we had 31 guys in camp and we were having a problem with logistics. So we had to trim the squad down to 26 from where we will now need to pick our final squad of 23," said Pasuwa.
The Warriors are looking to mould their team for the continental football showpiece around the foreign-based legion that includes skipper Willard Katsande, Marvelous Nakamba, Costa Nhamoinesu, Khama Billiat, Nyasha Mushekwi and Knowledge Musona, who was expected to join camp yesterday.
Zimbabwe have played at AFCON tournament twice in their history after qualifying for the 2004 and 2006 editions. Their campaigns however ended dismally as they could not go past the group phase.
Pasuwa and his men have maintained they want to shock the continent despite being pooled in a tough Group B that includes the continet's bigwigs Senegal, Algeria and Tunisia.
"In football, if you limit yourselves to thinking about the big names that you are going to face you will falter. But again if you do your things right I don't see any big name coming into play.
"This is the chance for these boys to showcase their talents. We have the confidence, we have the talents and I think these boys will do well," said Pasuwa.
Zimbabwe are expected to leave for Cameroon on Sunday where they play their final preparatory match against the Indomitable Lions next Tuesday.
They are hoping to use the experience in Cameroon to acclimatize with the conditions they expect in Gabon since the neighbouring countries fall in the same West Africa belt. The Warriors will be based in Franceville, which is near the border with Cameroon, for their opening two matches.
"As Zimbabwe, remember we have been getting knocked out in the qualifying rounds and now we are saying to the guys let's go and improve from our last performances at our last two AFCONs and hopefully qualify to the quarter-finals. So our main target here is the quarter-finals first," said Pasuwa.
Warriors Provisional Squad:
Donovan Bernard (How Mine), Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum)
Takabva Mawaya (Hwange)
Costa Nhamoinesu (AC Sparta Praha), Bruce Kangwa (Azam FC), Elisha Muroiwa (Dynamos), Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United), Oscar Machapa (AS Vita Club), Onismor Bhasera (Supersport United), Lawrence Mhlanga (Chicken Inn), Teenage Hadebe (Chicken Inn), Edwin Madhananga (Harare City)
Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Willard Katsande (Kaizer Chiefs), Khama Billiat (Mamelodi Sundowns), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows), Marshall Mudehwe (FC Platinum), Marvelous Nakamba (Vitesse Arnhem)
Cuthbert Malajila (Bidvest Wits), Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United), Knowledge Musona (KV Oostende), Nyasha Mushekwi (Dalian Yifang), Mathew Rusike (Helsingborgs IF), Tendai Ndoro (Orlando Pirates), Tinotenda Kadewere (Djurgardens IF).