Zimbabwe has suffered so much sporting humiliation with the Warriors being a name that is trending, albeit with negative undertones.
Final Whistle with John Mokwetsi
In pubs, during social gatherings and in salons, gossip took a backseat as dialogue centred around a “bunch of rookies” and their untrusted coach that had the temerity to enter the lion’s den — Egypt.
The Warriors, as the Zimbabwean team is known, had become a victim of internet trolls and social media soccer pages. Many Zimbabweans did not give them an ounce of optimism, pointing to the massacre of Swaziland by Egypt by a basketball scoreline of 10-0 in a friendly on the eve of the World Cup qualifier.
It was assumed that in the Swaziland massacre, Egypt had given enough testimony of yet another embarrassment set to befall the perennial underachieving Zimbabwe senior soccer team.
The media had aided the pessimism by zooming in on the selection of players. The Germany gaffer, Klaus Dieter Pagels speaking to sports journalists before leaving for Alexandra had looked confident of his blueprint. Change is not constant in Zimbabwe and Pagels had dared to think differently, to leap out of the box.
Pagels, who is a holder of the Uefa-Pro licence, the highest qualification in Europe, which he attained at the University of Cologne, had said to the Zimbabwe Independent: “I think I can achieve a lot with the Warriors. I see a lot of potential in the players that we have, but my team is likely to be composed more of locally-based players whom I can have enough time to work with. It does not mean that the door will be closed on the foreign-based players but I will have many more training sessions with the local players.”
And as the local players, disparaged because of the misguided mentality of “foreign is good”, walked onto the pitch, there was an air of perception of the challenge at hand. They had to play for both country and pride.
There was purpose to the “madness” of leaving out the usual players and there were mistakes made along the way as well.
The positive was that the flow of football was refreshing. Football is meant to be enjoyed and Pagels’ team was a breath of fresh air. The influence of Lloyd Mutasa, who introduced fluid soccer at Dynamos three seasons ago, was probably a factor as well.
Questions will be asked on why he made Denver Mukamba a skipper ahead of an obvious team leader in Washington Arubi; and his decision to substitute Silas Songani leading to the team conceding a goal three minutes later.
But great coaches have always been unpredictable and Sir Alex Ferguson [the Manchester United coach] is a master of deception, even benching his best player in a tactical move replicated by an exchange of chess pieces to gain a position.
That he had the courage to pick an unknown Songani who was a revelation on the right speaks volumes of this coach. To entrust Partson Jaure with the task of monitoring a player of Mohammed Aboutreika’s calibre takes both heart and conviction.
Zimbabwe lost the game by 2-1 but Pagels is shaping a culture, a culture of change and his start is not a bad one.
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