The Young Chimodzi-led Flames coaching panel gets down to serious business this afternoon with an international friendly match against the Warriors of Zimbabwe at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre.
Apart from the ‘new’ coaching panel, the Flames also bounce back into action today, a Fifa date, after exactly six months in the wilderness to kick-start preparations for the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
The last time the Flames played was on September 6 last year against Nigeria’s Super Eagles in a 2014 World Cup qualifier which they lost 2-0 away in Calabar.
Chimodzi has had stints with the Flames before, but not as a full-time head coach and this time he gets a chance to prove his worth when he sets on yet another chapter with the assistance of fellow legend and the team’s former mentor Jack Chamangwana.
However, the ever ice-cool coach said some of the players are nursing off-season inactivity going into this afternoon’s encounter.
“Obviously, we are hoping to start on a good note with a win, but as I said the emphasis is on getting a glimpse of some new players and seeing how they can blend with their foreign-based colleagues.
“The only worry though is that some of the players are not that sharp as they are coming from off-season, but the solace is that the others were involved in pre-season mini-tournaments and we’ll also have foreign-based players who were active,” said Chimodzi.
However, the only drawback for the Flames is that South Africa-based genius Gabadinho Mhango has been ruled out due to a stomach upset, but the good news is that the team’s experienced stars—Robert Ng’ambi and Joseph Kamwendo—arrived in the country yesterday afternoon.
Kamwendo arrived straight from Cameroon where he had accompanied his DR Congo team TP Mazembe for a CAF Champions League assignment.
Initially, Ng’ambi was also doubtful as he had travelled to Botswana for club commitments, but his arrival put to rest the doubts surrounding his availability.
Chimodzi and his backroom staff have a squad of 25 players that includes eight foreign-based players—goalkeeper Simplex Nthala; defenders Harry Nyirenda and Moses Chavula [captain]; midfielders Ng’ambi, Kamwendo and Chimango Kayira; and strikers Atusaye Nyondo and Zicco Mkanda.
The Warriors will take to the pitch with an ace up their sleeve having participated in the Championship of African Nations (Chan) in South Africa where they finished a respectable fourth.
Zimbabwe’s coach Ian Gorowa was quoted by one of that country’s dailies The Herald that he too will use the match to prepare for the 2015 Afcon qualifiers.
The Warriors have beefed up their squad with South Africa-based professionals Kaizer Chiefs trio of Willard Katsande, Knowledge Musona and Kingston Nkatha and Mamelodi Sundowns mercurial winger Khama Billiat.
However, as of Monday there was still a cloud of uncertainty surrounding the availability of Billiat who was left sorting out a club-versus-country dispute after Sundowns claimed he was injured and directed he should not be fielded in today’s strength-testing match.
The Warriors will also be without the only Europe-based player that Gorowa had included —Costa Nhamoinesu—who is now plying his trade for Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic.
Gorowa had earlier on Sunday learnt with concern from his base in Johannesburg that three of his local contingent — Kuda Mahachi, Milton Ncube and Peter Moyo — had been injured in a car accident in Kadoma while on their way to Harare from Bulawayo for the Warriors camp.
He drafted in Caps United’s Zimbabwe youth international Ronald Pfumbidzai as cover for the left-back position.
Gwesela said the three players, who also turn out for Bulawayo giants Highlanders, had been treated and discharged from hospital before making the road trip together with their fellow locals.
Meanwhile, FAM has announced that the pre-sale of tickets for the match started yesterday at Chiwembe Technical Centre and Kamuzu Stadium.
According to FAM competitions officer Gomezgani Zakazaka, the charges are as follows: Open Stands: K500, MBC Stand: K1 500, Covered Stands: K2 500 and VIP: K5 000.