I've nothing personal against Mhari - Pasuwa

HARARE - Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa says he has no vendetta against Petros Mhari after he omitted the FC Platinum captain and reigning Goalkeeper of the Year from his provisional 2017 Gabon Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) squad.

Mhari is coming from another stellar 2016 season in which he led the Zvishavane-based side to second place finishes in the Castle Lager Premiership and the Chibuku Super Cup.

Sportswriters also voted the former Hwange shot-stopper as the Goalkeeper of the Year while he also finished third behind Hardlife Zvirekwi and Leonard Tsipa in the Soccer Star vote.    

Pasuwa once again overlooked the Pure Platinum Play captain from his squad and chose to stick with Dynamos’ Tatenda Mkuruva and Donovan Bernard of How Mine, who were part of the team during the qualifiers.

Ngezi Platinum goalkeeper Nelson Chadya and Hwange’s Takabva Mawaya also found their way into the provisional squad.

The decision to leave out Mhari, however, has reignited a debate with some feeling the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year deserves a place in the national team due to his memorable season with FC Platinum.

“It was a marathon coming up with the Afcon squad and it’s not like we just woke up to say we are going to play in Gabon tomorrow,” Pasuwa told the Daily News yesterday.

“It is important to note that from the players that we have been using at Chan, Cosafa and during the qualifiers, we were preparing for the Afcon tournament.

“I know there are some people who feel Mhari should have been included in the team but it was also difficult for us. There is no doubt Mhari is a good goalkeeper and I admire him a lot but it was difficult for me and my technical team to start introducing new players into to the team at this crucial stage.”

The former Dynamos coach denied he has a score to settle with Mhari.

“I have nothing personal against him and it’s not only him because we have also left out other players,” he said.

“I’m a professional football coach and surely what do I benefit from destroying players’ careers? The thing is we have mostly settled for continuity’s sake.

“I have been working with these lads (Mkuruva, Donovan, Chadya and Mawaya) for some time now and I know their weaknesses and their strengths and in any case Mkuruva and Donovan deserve special mention because it’s actually because of them that we are here.

“It is the same thing with Mawaya, I have worked with him at the Under-23 and I know him well and on areas that he needs to improve. But to bring in new players now with a few days before the tournament, it will only make our jobs complicated.”

Pasuwa added: “The national team is different from club football because we are only together for a few days and during that limited time we will be working on a number of things. So for us working with the likes of Mkuruva and Donovan makes my job easier because I will be trying to improve on certain areas unlike bringing in a new player at this crucial stage.

“We can even go on and give statistics that we will be working on with these players when we are preparing for these matches. So, Mhari’s exclusion is purely on professional football reasons and nothing more. His chance will definitely come.”

Former Warriors goalkeepers’ coach Brenna Msiska, who worked with Sunday Chidzambwa at the team’s maiden Afcon appearance in 2004, said there was need for football fans to respect and support the coach’s selection.

“For me, I don’t see anything wrong with Mhari’s omission from the provisional squad, it is very normal in football,” Msiska, who was celebrating his 58th birthday yesterday, told the Daily News.

“The coach is the one who knows what he expects from certain players. It’s not just about picking players and I think we need to respect the coach’s decision. Looking at this provisional squad, I think it’s only fair to suggest the coach settled for continuity because he only selected those that had been doing duty for him in the qualifiers.

“Almost all the players selected were part of the qualification campaign save for some few individuals. I don’t think this is the right time to be blaming each other but rather to rally behind those who have been selected.”

Meanwhile, Pasuwa said he is expecting the team to troop into camp on Thursday to begin preparations for the Afcon tournament where Zimbabwe are in a tough Group B together with Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

He however, indicated that the majority of foreign-based players are likely to join camp later meaning that he will now use predominantly local-based players for the friendly against Ivory Coast on Boxing Day.

“We are starting camp on Thursday but we will be using mostly local-based players as the majority of those foreign-based will not be around yet. So the game against Ivory Coast will feature mostly local-based players,” he said.

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