Thursday Apr 08, 2021. 14:00
Detroit City defender Tendai Jirira has described his disappointment at being unable to link up with the Zimbabwean national team for the conclusion of their successful Africa Cup of Nations qualification campaign last month.
The Warriors secured a third successive AFCON appearance by finishing second behind Algeria in Group H, with the decisive result a 1-0 win in Botswana on March 25.
Jirira had been called to the squad by coach Zdravko Logarusic and was hoping to make his senior international debut in the match in Francistown, or in the final qualifier at home to Zambia four days later.
However, the 29-year-old ended up stranded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, unable to find a connecting flight to any travel hub in Southern Africa.
Ultimately, after flying over 11,000 kilometres from his base in Detroit, Jirira was left with no choice but to fly back to the United States.
This is the second time travel issues have denied the player a chance to represent his country: he was called up for the back-to-back qualifiers against Algeria in November last year, but Covid-19 travel restrictions meant he was unable to make the journey.
“I really wanted to be part of the team, since the technical team had invested their faith in me,’’ Jirira told The Herald.
“I was also hoping to finally make my debut, especially given that the last time out against Algeria, I couldn’t make the trip.
“I was really dying for the opportunity, to represent my country at this level of the game, and I am still licking the wounds after missing out.
“I was really determined to come but I could only make it to Ethiopia, after which I failed to get any connecting flights to Zimbabwe, Botswana or South Africa.”
Jirira’s absence prompted a late call-up for South African-based veteran Onismor Bhasera, who ended up paying for his own plane ticket to ensure he joined up with the Warriors in time.