The Zimbabwe International fullback Devine Lunga has refuted reports that he ignored Warriors call-up for the last two Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia.
Lunga insisted that his absence was due to injury.
The leftback was one of several foreign-based players who did not participate in the qualifiers for various reasons, including COVID-19-related issues.
Despite European based players like Tinotenda Kadewere who plays for Lyon in France and Marvelous Nakamba who plays for Aston Villa in England were barred from representing their countries due to strict travel restrictions, Lunga who plays in neighboring South Africa had been expected to turn up.
However, he did not take part in the qualifiers, leading to reports that he might be one of the players who have been accused by the Warriors technical team of refusing to heed the call for national duty.
Zdravko Logarušic who is the Warriors Head coach told the media early this week that he had shut the door for players who snubbed call-up for AFCON qualification matches and Devine Lunga was one of the affected players.
Warriors general manager Wellington Mpandare yesterday, however, said that the official position is that Lunga’s absence was due to injury.
“The statement that Lunga snubbed the national team call-up is a creation of social media. People are entitled to their own views, but the official position is that Lunga was injured,” he said.
Lunga’s manager Gibson Mahachi also justified his absence for the penultimate fixture against Botswana.
“For the record, Lunga’s absence from the national team was above board. There was communication between his club and ZIFA about his injury and everything was above board. Lunga even suggested to come even though he was injured so he could be assessed,” Mahachi said.
Speaking after the win against Botswana that secured Zimbabwe’s qualification to next year’s Afcon finals, Logarušic fired an exception which was believed to be targeted at Lunga.
“What I am looking for in a player is character, commitment and then talent. If a player thinks that he can pick and choose games that he wants to play, no, he will not. We have players like Knowledge Musona and Victor Kamhuka, who travelled thousands of miles to come for national duty, but some players in South Africa refused to come because they don’t have the country at heart. Also we have some players who are in Europe who ignored our calls when we needed them, but now that we have qualified, they are calling me. I have blocked them.
“I don’t do like other coaches who just look at how good a player is. For me, I consider a player’s character first, the personality, that is, if you love your country and then the rest. If you don’t love your country why should I select you?” said Loga.
Meanwhile Zimbabwean Warriors has qualified for AFCON championship which is scheduled for January next year.