Petros KausiyoÂ Deputy Sports Editor
TALENTED Mamelodi Sundowns winger Kuda Mahachi headlines a strong cast of a Young Warriors squad that will next week begin Zimbabweâs quest for a place at the 2015 All-Africa Games.Â Mahachi impressed after being given a place in the Sundowns starting XI last night in a league match against Moroka Swallows.
The Zimbabweâs Under-23 side will travel to Mbabane to for a first round, first leg assignment against Swaziland on the weekend of February 20-23 with the reverse fixture set for next month.
Mahachi, the 2014 CHAN tournament poster boy, is one of four foreign-based stars included in coach Callisto Pasuwaâs 23-man squad that was released by ZIFA yesterday and expected to go into camp on Friday night.
The others are midfielder Marvelous Nakamba, who plies his trade with Dutch Eredivisie side Vitesse Arnhem, England-based striker Macauley Bonne of Colchester United and unheralded forward Judah Rashirai, who is based in the United States.
The inclusion of Bonne is also set to excite local fans who are eager to have a glimpse of the highly-rated striker.
Bonne was an instant hit for the Young Warriors in his debut for Zimbabwe in the clash against the Atlas Lions of Morocco in Agadir, which the hosts won 2-1 with the 20 year-old forward charming Pasuwa and his lieutenants â Saul Chaminuka and Nation Dube â with his work rate.
The tall striker, who has made no secret of his wishes to make an impact for Zimbabwe capped his fine debut for the Young Warriors by scoring against a full strength Atlas Lions, grabbing the opening goal of the night after 18 minutes by sliding the ball between the legs of Morocco goalkeeper Bounou Yassine who plays for Spanish La Liga side Real Zaragoza.
Despite Zimbabwe having a host of young players dotted around the globe, Pasuwa, who indicated yesterday that he was not taking any chances and is eager to lead the Young Warriors to a place at the All-Africa Games in Congo, Brazzaville put much of his faith in the homegrown talent.
The former Dynamos coach had the luxury of leaving out such players like Munyaradzi Mbanje of Leeds academy in England and Northamptonâs David Moyo at least for this encounter.
Pasuwa, however, appeared spoilt for choice from the locally-based players with the coach including exciting Highlanders forward King Nadolo, skipper Wisdom Mutasa of FC Platinum, Hwangeâs Pritchard Mpelele and three good goalkeepers â Donovan Bernard of How Mine and the Dynamos pair of Tonderai Mateyaunga and Tatenda Mukuruva.
Dynamos right back Blessing Moyo, voted the Castle Lager Premiershipâs Rookie of the Year in 2014, is also part of the cast that will try to clear the Swaziland hurdle.
Zimbabweâs sole representatives on the continental safari FC Platinum, who are playing in the Confederation Cup, provide the bulk of the players and this is largely due to the platinum minersâ investment in the youth.
FC Platinum, who are set to leave for Nairobi on Friday to face have Sofapaka in a Caf Confederation Cup clash, provide five players â Emmanuel Mandiranga, Kelvin Moyo, Masuku, Mutasa, and Musona in the Young Warriors squad.
While Pasuwa named a strong squad that is rich in talent and long on potential, the 44-year-old coach might find the little time he will have for camp, the biggest undoing.
The coach had since last year asked for a longer training camp given that the local players are on the off-season break but cash-strapped ZIFA, could only arrange a weeklong get together before the players leave for Mbabane.
âIt would have been nice to have a longer camp and get time to assess all the players and be adequately prepared but we have to do with what we have for now.
âWe must also not read much into the fact that we beat the Swaziland senior team 2-0 with this team because is a different game and a different competition,ââ Pasuwa said.
ZIFA Communications manager Xolisani Gwesela, while acknowledging that they had failed to grant the Young Warriors adequate training time, remained hopeful that the late camp would begin on Friday.
âThe coach has named his squad and we are still finalising on the logistics of their camping which is expected to begin on Friday evening at the ZIFA Village and Conference Centre.
âShould there be any alterations to the squad, we will advise the public accordingly and in due course.
âWe are already behind time but we remain optimistic that the Young Warriors will display a thrilling performance and go past the first challenge,â Gwesela said.
Goalkeepers: Tatenda Mukuruva, Tonderai Mateyaunga (Dynamos), Donovan Bernard (How Mine)
Defenders: Blessing Moyo (Dynamos) Ronald Pfumbidzai (CAPS United), Douglas Sibanda (Highlanders), Liberty Chakoroma (Buffaloes), Munyaradzi Nyenye (Harare City), Teenage Hadebe (Bantu Rovers, Kelvin Moyo (FC Platinum)
Midfielders: Nqobizitha Masuku, Wisdom Mutasa, Walter Musona (FC Platinum), Kuda Mahachi (Mamelodi Sundowns, South Africa)); Marvelous Makamba (Vitesse Arnhem, Netherlands), King Nadolo (Highlanders) Carlos Rusere (Dynamos),
Strikers: Pritchard Mpelele (Hwange), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Bantu Rovers), Emmanuel Mandiranga (FC Platinum), Talent Chawapihwa ( Harare City), Judah Rashirai (USA), Macauley Bonne (Colchester United, England)