Zimbabwe coach buoyant despite mass player suspensions

By Steve VickersBBC Sport, Harare
Zimbabwe caretaker coach Rahman Gumbo and Peter Ndlovu (right)
Zimbabwe caretaker coach Rahman Gumbo and Peter Ndlovu (right)

Caretaker coach Rahman Gumbo believes Zimbabwe can start their 2013 Africa Cup of Nations campaign well despite the mass ban of players and officials.

The Warriors play a first-round, first-leg match in Burundi on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe's FA initially suspended 80 players accused of match-fixing, and the list has now grown to 98.

"I don't want to get into football politics about the suspensions, but it's a chance for these players to prove a point," Gumbo told BBC Sport.

"Some of them are playing outside the country and we've got enough depth to build a new team."

Many national team regulars are among the near century of suspended players and will only be considered for national team duty if they are cleared by a committee considering their cases.

Coach Norman Mapeza was also among those suspended, leaving Gumbo to take over for Wednesday's game in Bujumbura.

"I'm always looking for a positive result," said Gumbo. "Straight away we're looking for a win but if we get a draw it'll be one of those things."

With Zimbabwe aiming to qualify for their first Nations Cup finals since 2006, many supporters are concerned about the decision to suspend players before judgement has been passed on them.

"I don't have much confidence in the team - from what I've seen, I don't think that we'll get a good result," said Lloyd, one of the fans watching the team train before their departure for Burundi.

"I think it was bad timing. We have to start again to look for new players and I'd be very happy if we could have our first-team players back."

Ten regular squad members have been suspended, including captain Method Mwanjali, Al Hilal striker Edward Sadomba and goalkeeper Washington Arubi, Zimbabwe's footballer of the year.

Germany-based striker Knowledge Musona has been included in the squad as he is not among those implicated in the match-fixing investigation.

The second leg of the first-round match will take place on the weekend of 15-17 June.