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Date: 23 July 2017

  Zimbabwean - Soccer

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Benjani recall or new cap for Bradley Pritchard?

[Posted 20 Feb 2012]
[By Brighton Mupangavanhu]
Benjani to return against Burundi? Why not the younger Bradley Pritchard instead?

There is rumour in Zimbabwean football that former Warriors captain Benjamin "Benjani" Mwaruwari is just days away from announcing his return to the national soccer team which he sensationally quit in October 2010.

Benjani announced that he was retiring from international football soon after the Warriors failed to beat Cape Verde at the National Sports Stadium on 10 October 2010, a 0-0 home draw that later came to haunt the squad when they failed to qualify for the AFCON 2012 finals by exactly two points.

The Portsmouth striker has made the strongest hint of late that he will soon return to the Warriors fold, and has given match-fixing inspired suspensions of about 98 players by ZIFA as his motivation for his desired return to help his nation qualify for 2013 AFCON finals.

"I am aware of the suspension of the players over match fixing, he said.

I will be coming there on Monday and we can then talk about my returning to the national team. I can't say much at the moment until I come there, Benjani told NewZimbabwe.com yesterday from his base in Portsmouth Egland. 

The fact that Benjani will be flying down to Harare, during the same week that the national team is expected to be getting into camp could be a sure sign that the veteran striker's return to the national side is cast in stone.

Legendary Warriors striker Peter Ndlovu, who is now in the Warriors technical team set-up together with stand-in coach Rahman Gumbo, revealed only last week that he prefers to see Benjani back in the national team.

Ndlovu's technical judgement is not one of the most trusted at this stage given his lack of experience on the bench, and his attempt to get Benjani back into the bloated strike-force called by Gumbo for the Burundi tie, doesn't do much to convince many that 'Nsukuzonke' has good judgement as a coach.

Honestly, is there any need for any more experienced players in a squad that already boasts Esrom Nyandoro (the jury is still out on the wisdom of bringing back a match unfit player to the squad at this stage), Tinashe Nengomasha, Tapuwa Kapini, Noel Kaseke, Onismor Bhasera, Dixon Choto, Vusa Nyoni, Quincy Antipas, among others?

Besides, the strikeforce already boasts Knowledge Musona, Musa Mguni, Roderick Mutuma, Terrence Mandaza, Charles Sibanda and Quincy Antipas who can play either as a striker or attacking midfielder.

There is an argument in Zimbabwean football against recycling players whose contribution to the Warriors' cause on the field of play in the past has not been that outstanding.

Zambia recently achieved a feat that Zimbabwe can only dream of. Their squad of players like Isaac Chansa, Christopher Katongo, Kennedy Mweene, Felix Katongo, Rainsford Kalaba is a squad that has been built over a long time on the basis of young players recruited from the Under 20 team of yesteryears.

The Chipolopolo AFCON finals  team boasts of the exuberance of youth with young stars such as Stopilla Sunzu, Emmanuel Mayuka,  Nathan Sinkala,  Hichani Himoonde, Chisamba Lungu and Evans Kangwa.

Is this therefore not the time to emphasise on bringing more youthful players around the globe with Zimbabwean roots into the team, rather than recycling the same old players who are, honestly speaking, past their prime and are currently not in the best shape for national team consideration?

Quite honestly, is recalling Benjani or Nyandoro a step in the right direction for Zimbabwean football, when we could be be using this opportunity to give younger players a chance in the national team?

We do have areas which really need strengthening in the national team, and Zimbabwe has the abundance of talent, that even the suspension of 98 players has not robbed the nation of the best talent that the coaches can consider.

The Warriors need midfielders who can replace the likes of Willard Katsande, Ovidy Karuru and Khama Billiat who still have to clear their names with the Ethics Committee.

What Gumbo and his technical team which includes Peter and David Mandigora should be doing, is to look at in-form midfielders like Bradley Pritchard of Charlton Athletics in England's League One.

Only on Saturday, Pritchard was outstsanding in the middle of the park for League One log leaders Charlton. Pritchard is Zimbabwean and qualifies to play for Zimbabwe and the fact that the coaches have not called him is simply due to poor organisation on the side of the technical team, whether its Gumbo now in charge or substantive coach Mapeza.

Gumbo and his technical team only recently rectified their mistake after they had ignored our best central defender in terms of current form, Carlington Nyadombo of Amazulu in South Africa, preferring to call the likes of Obert Moyo, who is currently clubless after being released by Hwange for indiscipline. 

Time has come for Zimbabwe to build a team based on young talent such as Bradley Pritchard, Brendon Galloway, both based in the UK, and other younger players such as Musona. Mapeza had demonstrated vision by blending youth and experience.

The team that agonisingly failed to qualify for the AFCON 2012 finals is one for the future.

A team of the likes of Musona, Archieford Gutu and the currently excluded players such as  Billiat, Katsande, Karuru, Nyasha Mushekwi has  enough talent to win some silverware for the country in the near future. Once cleared by the Ethics Committee, the majority of these guys should be allowed to develop into a formiddable outfit.

The idea is not to assemble a national team ona match to match basis or for the 2013 finals  , but to build a winning squad for the future.

Maybe the challenge that Gumbo faces is that he has to plan not for the future, but just for one game. Expectations that he should win the match or two legs of this qualifier weigh heavily on him and his technical team. That could explain the misguided penchant to recall the old guard.  

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