Talking Football with Lawrence

Once again, and possibly not for the last time, I’m questioning the criteria used in recruiting players for the national team.

The Warriors will take part in the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon from January 9 to February 6.

This will be the third time Zimbabwe has qualified for the continental showpiece in a row. Fans have always found such achievements exhilarating, but not this time around.

The team assembled for the Cameroon 2021 campaign is arguably the weakest ever to represent Zimbabwe at the biannual football extravaganza.

Coach Norman Mapeza is going into the battle without Aston Villa’s Marvelous Nakamba, Stade de Reims’ Marshall Munetsi and Plymouth Argyle’s Brendan Galloway due to injury setbacks, while personal poster-boy Khama Billiat and Tendayi Darikwa have dropped out because of personal reasons.

As things stand, the Warriors don’t inspire confidence among football connoisseurs, not entirely because of withdrawals of key players, but because of the odd selection criteria used by the coach.

When the provisional squad was named, we were told that bustling striker David Moyo would fly directly to Cameroon, which means he was guaranteed a place in the final 23.

Worryingly, we are talking about the main striker of a team which got relegated from the Scottish Premiership for lack of goals and has struggled to find the back of the net in the second tier division.

How then he makes the cut in the national team, for a big tournament like AFCON, boggles the mind.

What is also baffling is the absence of Ngezi Platinum Stars midfielder, Denver Mukamba.

A lot of people take issue when I say Mukamba deserves a place in the Warriors squad.

They think I am nostalgic- talking  about the dazzling forward who took the local league by storm and was deservedly crowned Soccer of the Year in 2012. They are wrong!

What I will say repeatedly; and unapologetically is that despite his declining standard of play, Denver is way better than some players who continue to make the cut in the Warriors midfield,  yet perform dismally.

Maybe he must change his name or have plastic surgery for him to be considered worthy of national team material.

Interestingly, after casting a blind eye on Mukamba, Mapeza actually admitted that he needs a creative player in the team and settled for Kundai Benyu.

Benyu last played club football for Iceland-based side Vestri on the 24th of August and did not feature in the last eight games of the season.

How such an inactive player is called for a tournament like the Africa Cup of Nations, is mind-boggling.

In addition, some people are misguided that my criticism as to why Knox Mutizwa was included n the provisional squad stems from me ‘disliking’ the striker.

I have argued that Mutizwa has neither started nor scored a goal for DStv Premiership side Golden Arrows in the last seven matches. That on its own proves that he is not in form and should  be nowhere near the national team.

That he was then dropped from the final 23-man squad doesn’t sanitize the strange selection criteria.

Frank Makarati is another missing player who in my view, deserved to be at AFCON.

The gifted Dynamos center-back surprised few when he was named in the provisional 30-man squad.

He is one of the best central defenders in the local league. His imposing figure in the DeMbare backline is one of the reasons the team has an impenetrable defense.

Surprisingly, He was left out and two makeshift center backs went to Cameroon.

Those in the truth telling business will admit that the reason why the current  atmosphere in Zimbabwean football does not  look or sound good, is not only because the Warriors are facing potential ban from FIFA.

Without or without the possibility of a ban, the team does not inspire confidence because I love it so much, I am prepared to be controversial and says things as they are.

Happy New Year!