Pasuwa frets over artificial turf

Harare Bureau
WARRIORS coach Callisto Pasuwa says the Zimbabwe team for the CHAN tournament should take their preparations to artificial turf so that his players will get used to the surface before their departure for Rwanda. The Warriors, who leave next Saturday, are expected to play two of their Group D matches against Zambia and Mali on the artificial turf of the newly built 5,000-seater Umugunda Stadium in Rubavu.

They will then move to the capital city, Kigali, for their final group assignment against the Uganda Cranes. But with only one week remaining to finalise their preparations, the technical team revealed their anxiety after efforts to have Zifa organise them training facilities on artificial turf were hampered by some “logistical” challenges.

Pasuwa believes their preparations will not be entirely complete if his players do not train on the same surface they expect to play their matches. Rufaro is the most likely venue they can get under the circumstances but the coach was also sceptic about the prospects of using the ground, which poses danger to his injury-stricken camp because of the hardness of the surface.

The Warriors have been training on grass pitches at Gateway and Pasuwa said they could also use the artificial turf at Zifa Village as an option.

“If we can get the training ground like the one at Zifa Village, I think that’s the type of pitch we expect to use in Rwanda because it still has those granules unlike Rufaro.

“ It (Zifa Village) is softer than Rufaro and the bounce of the ball is different. We’ve been talking to our bosses to have Rufaro Stadium for training but again remember the turf at Rufaro isn’t that much like the one where we’re going to play on in Rwanda.

“It’s very hard so much that if we train two-three days there, and with the ankle injuries that the boys have been complaining of, we can only get into more trouble,” said Pasuwa.

Zimbabwe will open their campaign on January 19 against neighbours Zambia before facing in their second assignment Mali on Janaury 23. They will complete their group games with a date against Cecafa champions Uganda on Janaury 27.

Uganda are now the highest ranked team in the Group in terms of the latest Fifa World rankings but the Warriros will start the CHAN tournament as the Group D seeds.

Pasuwa will, however, draw some comfort from the fact that they have played most of their international matches at Rufaro, including the CHAN qualifier against the Comoros Islands, with almost the same squad last year.

But the major setback for Pasuwa and his men is that they are now certain to plunge into the CHAN battles without having had an opportunity to gauge their strength and assess the players’ adaptability to the various tactics they intend to use at the tournament.

The coaches have always wanted to see how their players will perform under pressure in a game situation and how the combinations are shaping up. Zimbabwe have been forced to delay naming their final squad because of the injuries that have rocked their camp.

Midfielder Ronald Chitiyo is the latest casualty after complaining of back and ankle injuries and is currently receiving treatment. Meanwhile, Uganda have since started preparations on artificial turf and will tomorrow play a high profile friendly match against Gabon and Cameroon on Wednesday.

The Cranes have since shifted base and are now camping at the association’s Technical Centre which has an artificial surface. The Cranes coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic has been drawing comfort from recent performances in which his team picked some important wins on synthetic surfaces.

The other group opponents, Zambia, arrived in South Africa yesterday where they have set a week-long base and are expected to play a series of friendly matches starting with Angola tomorrow. Chipolopolo are looking to do well on their third appearance at the tournament.

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