Warriors attacker Kundai Benyu, who could get his debut today as the senior national football team takes on Lesotho in an international friendly, is already targeting success at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon).
BY KEVIN MAPASURE
The Celtic Glasgow midfielder, who is part of four players with Zimbabwean parentage and have been drawn from United Kingdom leagues to try and bolster the team’s resources, travelled with the squad to Lesotho yesterday morning.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport at Harare International Airport, Benyu said he was looking forward to playing for the national team at the Afcon finals.
The other three players who came from the UK are strikers Macauley Bonne and Admiral Muskwe as well as full-back Tendayi Darikwa.
Warriors interim coach Wilson Mutekede said he wanted to assess all four so that he could see how they could fit into the system.
Benyu said he had been looking forward to playing for the Warriors since it was first mentioned to him at the end of last season.
He said he was relishing the prospect of playing for the Warriors and had already enjoyed the short experience he had with the locally-based players.
“This is a great opportunity for me, a new adventure and experience which I have been looking forward to,” Benyu said.
“I can’t wait to get onto the pitch and start giving my best for the national team. Everything has been great since I came in, the atmosphere has been good and the welcome was very warm and I can’t wait to feel the atmosphere in a match.
“I have been following the Warriors since the proposal for me coming to represent Zimbabwe was first made at the end of last season. From there, I have had a keen interest in everything to do with the national team.”
Having watched the Warriors at the last Afcon finals played in Gabon earlier this year, Benyu said the team had potential to do better than they did.
“I hope I can make a good impression and I will work hard for the team. The target is to qualify for the Afcon finals and when we get there, we have to do better than what we did the last time,” he said.
“So far, it has been great meeting up with the guys that have been playing all along. They are good guys and very friendly, we really feel at home.”
The 19-year-old, who was born in London to Zimbabwean parents, played most of his club football for Aldershot, who are in England’s third-tier league, having been on the Ipswich Town books.
Mutekede said while he, together with other members of his technical team, wanted to assess the quartet, they already knew that they are all good players.
He said the two friendly matches against Lesotho today and Namibia at the weekend were aimed at building towards the Afcon qualifiers, where Zimbabwe are in the same group as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Congo.
“These are preparatory matches, the aim obviously is to build a team for the Afcon qualifiers,” the Warriors interim mentor said.
“We want to have a team in place that can take us to Afcon, so these matches are about identifying players that can be used in those qualifiers. We are glad that we have all the players that we called up, except for two (Knowledge Musona and George Chigova) that were ruled out through injury.
“It’s good that the guys from the UK finally managed to come after a long period of trial. Except for Bonne, the other guys have never played for the national team. So we want to access all of them.
“We want to give them a chance and see how they can value add to the team and how they can fit into the set up. But we know they are all good players and we are pleased to have them in the team.”
Zimbabwe return to competitive action when they play Congo in March next year.
Goalkeepers: Edmore Sibanda (Caps United) Herbert Rusawo (Black Rhinos).
Defenders: Dennis Dauda (Yadah Stars), Tendai Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Qadr Amini (Ngezi Platinum), Jameson Mukombwe (Black Rhinos), Kelvin Moyo (FC Platinum), Peter Muduwa (Highlanders)
Midfielders: Kundai Benyu (Celtic), Kudakwashe Mahachi (Golden Arrows), Marvelous Nakamba (Club Brugge), Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum), Devon Chafa (Caps United)
Strikers: Evans Rusike (Maritzburg United), Admiral Muskwe (Leicester), Macauley Bonne (Leyton Orient), Tinotenda Kadewere (Djurgardens), Tendai Ndoro (AL Faisaly FC)-amh