Ricky Zililo in Ndola, Zambia
CHAMPIONS Chicken Inn have turned down an invitation to play two friendly matches in Tanzania between February 5 and 10 fearing that their players could pick up injuries ahead of their maiden Caf Champions League match against South African pace setters Mamelodi Sundowns.
The two sides meet in the first leg of the Caf Champions League preliminary round on the weekend of February 12-14 in Bulawayo, with the return leg set for Pretoria two weeks later.
The Gamecocks believe that the four-team tournament they are involved in featuring Tanzanian champions Azam and two Zambian sides Zesco and Zanaco is enough to measure their players’ level of preparedness.
Chicken Inn’s head of delegation and executive member Mlungisi Moyo said they received an invitation from Tanzania while on their way to Zambia on Monday.
“While we appreciate the gesture by the Tanzanians to extend an invitation to us, unfortunately we’ve decided not to accept it because it will be hectic for the boys,” said Moyo.
“We were going to play their top teams, probably Young Africans and Azam. What made us decline the invitation is that by the time that tournament ends, it will be two or three days before we play Sundowns and that doesn’t make sense at all.”
Moyo indicated that coach Joey Antipas also needs to get his squad to train together with players that were on duty with the disappointing Warriors at the African Nations Championship (Chan) as well as to assess skipper Danny “Deco” Phiri and Clemence Matawu’s tendon and calf injuries respectively.
The Gamecocks had four players with the national team in Rwanda and these are goalkeeper Elvis Chipezeze, defender Lawrence Mhlanga, strikers Edmore Chirambadare and Moses Demera, who was recently signed from Flame Lily.
Demera was registered for the Caf Champions League alongside other new buys, strikers Obidiah Tarumbwa and Physwell Madhazi, who are part of the Zambian tour.
Tarumbwa scored Chicken Inn’s second goal against Zanaco in their 2-2 draw at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium on Wednesday, while Madhazi’s performance impressed Antipas.
“It’s good to see that the new guys Tarumbwa and Madhazi have easily settled in and they are bonding well with the other players,” said Antipas.
“To be honest, I was impressed with their performances and I believe they are going to give us more options in attack. I think after this tournament the players will be almost there in terms of match fitness.”
Chicken Inn take on Azam tomorrow. The Tanzanian champions drew 1-1 against tournament organisers Zesco in their opening match.
The Gamecocks’ last game in Zambia is against Zesco on February 3.