Ndi­raya cast­ing se­lec­tion net wider

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter

ZIM­BABWE Un­der-23 foot­ball team coach Ton­derai Ndi­raya will cast his net wide to in­clude more of the Europe­born and bred play­ers as he seeks to as­sem­ble a for­mi­da­ble squad to help the Olympics team back on their feet af­ter four years of in­ac­tiv­ity.

The Young War­riors will be back in ac­tion in March when they en­gage neigh­bours Mozam­bique in back-to­back qual­i­fiers for this year’s Un­der-23 African Cup of Na­tions to be hosted by Egypt.

Ndi­raya yes­ter­day said his op­tions will not be lim­ited to lo­cal play­ers only as Zim­babwe has a rich data­base of tal­ented young­sters dot­ted across the globe.

“Ev­ery Zim­bab­wean play­ing pro­fes­sional foot­ball, who has the proper doc­u­ments and is el­i­gi­ble to play for the na­tional team, will be con­sid­ered.

“I have no­ticed that we have a lot of tal­ented young­sters all over the world who we can in­vite for as­sess­ment. In fact, we are chas­ing some of the boys and we have to make sure they have the nec­es­sary doc­u­ments. Of course, time and funds per­mit­ting we will look to bring in as many as we can,” said Ndi­raya.

ZIFA, who have been work­ing in close co-op­er­a­tion with the Team Zim­babwe-UK and the Zim­babwe For­eign Leg­ends to bring play­ers dot­ted across the globe, are tar­get­ing a num­ber of play­ers ply­ing their trade in Europe.

ZFL’s Mistry Chipere said most of the young play­ers have com­mit­ted them­selves to play for Zim­babwe and these in­clude Read­ing’s Andy Ri­nomhota, Ti­nashe Chak­wana of Burn­ley, Rein­hard Fabisch (Jnr), Mat­i­fadza Zata, Ad­mi­ral Muskwe, Joshua Jeche, Kundai Benyu, Terry Mu­pariwa, Farai Mu­tatu, Shama Bako, Seth Pa­trick, Martin Zulu, En­rique Ricci Ri­cardo, Abubakar Mof­fat and Vashiko Dixon.

Ri­nomhota (21), who was born in Leeds to a Zim­bab­wean father, is said to be keen to play for the Zim­babwe na­tional foot­ball team.

Ndi­raya, who was named the new Young War­riors coach last week, faces a big chal­lenge in try­ing to build a com­pet­i­tive side since he has un­der two months to com­plete the task with most of the lo­cally-based play­ers still in­ac­tive be­cause of the off-sea­son break.

Zim­babwe had a bye in the first round qual­i­fiers and they play Mozam­bique in March. If they make it past the Mozam­bi­cans they will face the win­ner be­tween South Africa and An­gola in the fi­nal qual­i­fier of the qua­dren­nial tour­na­ment.

Eight teams qual­ify to play in the fi­nal tour­na­ment, in­clud­ing Egypt who qual­i­fied au­to­mat­i­cally as hosts. These matches also serve as the first stage of the CAF qual­i­fiers for the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics men’s foot­ball tour­na­ment in Ja­pan.

Ndi­raya said he was ready for the chal­lenge. His task will also in­clude pre­par­ing the Un­der-23 play­ers for the senior na­tional team du­ties.

“It is a great hon­our to be recog­nised by the na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion and to be en­trusted with such a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity. I will al­ways strive to work hard and to do the best that we can as a team to pro­duce the re­sults.

“The most im­por­tant thing for now is to as­sem­ble a team that can com­pete with their re­gional coun­ter­parts. Re­mem­ber we have been in­ac­tive for about four years now and we are al­most start­ing all over again.

“So we will put in place a pro­gramme so that we pre­pare ad­e­quately for the im­me­di­ate task. We are go­ing to re­quest for a longer camp, per­haps four weeks. The good thing though is that most of the lo­cal play­ers will have started their pre-sea­son prepa­ra­tions.

“Hope­fully the league games would have started as well by the time we play Mozam­bique be­cause we are tar­get­ing to have at least 70 per­cent of play­ers ac­tive in com­pet­i­tive foot­ball.

“Mozam­bique do not look like they are easy op­po­nents. They have been play­ing and they elim­i­nated Swazi­land, which shows their team has the qual­i­ties to win matches.

“The big­ger pic­ture is qual­i­fy­ing for the Olympics but we have to make it to the African Cup of Na­tions first. And for now the im­me­di­ate task is Mozam­bique, then ei­ther South Africa or An­gola in the fi­nal qual­i­fier. So we have to as­sem­ble a team that can com­pete,” said Ndi­raya.

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