I HAVE previously written in this column lamenting the modest talent of the current crop of Zimbabwe national team players.
Simply pathetic, I have said, and that position has hardly changed.
Well, it wasn’t even going to take a mere win over Guinea in the make-or-break match last week to change my view, but quite a thorough overhaul of performance and spirit by the players.
Blame the coach we may, and he indeed has shown some technical flaws, but that he has failed can be put down to that he hasn’t had the right material to work with. I believe with a group of talented players with the right mindset, Valinhos’ shortcomings would not have had such a telling effect.
Lack of talent aside, what has also come out clearly is the apparent lack of pride and fighting spirit in the players.
One wonders if our national team players realise that playing for their clubs is different from donning national stripes. I have my doubts that they at all realise that once they’ve been called up for national duty, they carry theÂ expectation of the nation.
World over, footballers are not known for their sophistication, but national pride is hardly a preserve of the learned man.
One senior Warriors player, who even spent some time playing in Europe, summed it up when asked; “What does it mean to you to play for your country?”
Clearly annoyed by the question, he took a thoughtful time before the sharp retort: “What do you mean, I just play!”
Watching the Warriors match against Guinea one could not help but notice the disheartening body language of the players.
As the match fast approached fulltime and the World Cup dream crumbled, the urgency wasn’t there and the disappointment on the players’ faces wasn’t obvious.
In an era where football mannerisms have changed, Warriors players remain one of the few teams that still put their hand ,on their hearts when the national anthem is played before kick-off: prizes for any of the players who know what this gesture means.
As the country’s economic crisis deepens amid the political impasse, the central bank chief got first-hand experience of what the public think of him and the system, if he didn’t know already.
Invited as guest of honour for the Zimbabwe/Guinea match, he had the cheek of walking past the City End stand of the stadium after the disappointing draw, much to the annoyance of the crowd, who hurled all sorts of insults at him.
The only printable swear lines are the ones in which he was accused of running down the economy, then there were outright demands for maximum bank withdrawals to be increased. He was also quizzed sternly how on earth he thought the fans had found their way to the stadium to support the team when maximum daily withdrawals were $500.
The cheapest ticket for the match cost the same amount!
I imagined the governor would have been pressed to turn to the lady walking besides him, her host the Zifa chief executive, inquiring why she had to expose him to this kind of public humiliation.
Besides, he would have also accused the lady of fueling the black market by charging exorbitantly for a soccer match when she knew too well that the amounts were above maximum daily withdrawals at the bank.
And speaking of the hands-on lady CEO —— , sheÂ comesÂ aliveÂ under the public’s attention so much that, like a schoolgirl, she runs energetically half-length of the ground, right in front of an excited and cheering Vietnam stand, apparently just to give directions to a bus driver ferrying the Kenyan team into the stadium.
Also did she allow election campaign material to be distributed in the VIP section, by a former kit manager of the national side?
Fortunately Fifa, which prohibits the distribution of political material at games, were conspicuously silent on this.
And after they staged a strike four days before the match demanding to be paid outstanding bonuses and allowances, the players must be kicking themselves for not beating Guinea and blowing away what I reckon would have been a windfall from an impressed and appropriate guest of honour.