Zimbabwe: Ray of Hope for Khamaldinho

The Warriors technical team can keep their fingers crossed, over the availability of Khama Billiat, after Kaizer Chiefs yesterday announced the forward was on the road to recovery.

Billiat, who has suffered a series of injuries of late, returned to the casualty ward last week when he injured in a DStv Premiership tie against Mamelodi Sundowns.

But with the Warriors technical team, expected to name their squad this week, team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said they were still waiting for the recommendations from the Chiefs doctors.

There were fears Billiat, who recently returned from a three-month lay-off, could be forced to stay on the sidelines for a long period.

"We wrote a letter to Kaizer Chiefs, enquiring about Billiat's injury," said Mpandare.

"Remember, they did scans last week to ascertain the extent of the injury.

"So, we are waiting for the feedback, and the doctors' recommendations, before we can finalise our World Cup squad.

"But, it's not Khama alone, who is in this situation.

"Terrence Dzvukamanja is also limping, because of an ankle injury, and we will hear from his team doctors if he will be referred for surgery.

"We are happy that Marshal Munetsi, and Tino Kadewere, are back and are playing for their clubs in France."

Orlando Pirates coach, Josef Zinnbauer, yesterday painted a bad picture about Dzvukamanja's woes.

"Dzvukamanja has gone to the second specialist and now we are waiting to hear what exactly is wrong with him," he told the South African media.

"He always has pain in his ankle, remember he got a knock against Al Ahli Benghazi on his other leg and now we have to wait.

"He cannot pass a ball as he always experiences pain, and this is why we have to wait and hear what the specialist says.

"He is also an experienced player that we need, especially in such times and games."

Zimbabwe are set to open their Group G World Cup qualifiers against South Africa on June 5.

The Warriors will then travel to Ethiopia, the following week, for the second game.

Ghana are the fourth team in the group.

Mpandare said the technical team want to avoid more injuries, in their camp, and have turned down proposals from the ZIFA leadership to engage in international sparring matches, before the June qualifiers.

Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, is expected in Zimbabwe next Tuesday from Croatia, while the players can only start trooping in camp on May 29. Loga is looking to have all his players at his disposal, after Covid-19 restrictions prevented most of his Europe-based Warriors, from travelling for the final two 2021 AFCON qualifiers.

Midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, Kadewere and Munetsi could not honour the call because of the Covid-19 protocols in England and France. But, they don't expect such challenges this time around, since most of the foreign leagues are expected to conclude this month. The DStv Premiership, where the majority of the Warriors are based, will only end on May 29.

"What happened last time was beyond our control. Clubs were not obliged to release players because of the coronavirus red zones alert," said Mpandare.

"But, most of the foreign leagues will have ended by the time we begin these qualifiers, so I don't see clubs holding on to the players.

"So, we are focused on the preparations. In fact, we started preparing soon after the AFCON qualifier against Zambia.

"We sent out the invitations to the various players that same week and we have since done the bookings, for local hotels, for the camping.

"In terms of logistics, what was only left was booking the hotels in Ethiopia. We couldn't do it earlier because CAF had not confirmed the venues for the match.

"The ZIFA executive had suggested that we play an international friendly before we host South Africa, but the coach felt it was not prudent because that would have exposed players to injuries. "Remember, we already have players that are carrying knocks."

ZIFA spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, confirmed they had dropped the plans for international friendly.

"ZIFA is saddled with preparations for the World Cup qualifiers due in June 2021 against South Africa and Ethiopia as well as Senior Women matches pencilled later this year," he said in a statement.

"In the same token, ZIFA wishes to inform the nation that it has dropped any plans for the Warriors friendly on the advice and request of the technical team which feels the friendly window dates are too close to the actual qualifiers and may pose challenges such as injuries to key players.

"The FIFA friendly window has been set a few days before the qualifies. The Board has accepted such a request."

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