HomeSportInside sport: Afcon preparations must begin now

Inside sport: Afcon preparations must begin now

TODAY the curtain comes down on the 25th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations finals and what a tournament of surprises it has been.

BY Michael Kariati

Nobody, including their hardest of supporters, believed there was any chance of Congo Brazzaville and Guinea reaching the quarter finals of the tournament.

Neither did anyone think the Democratic Republic of Congo, or Equatorial Guinea, had any chance of reaching the last four of the biennial football competition.

But that is exactly what happened, clear evidence that evolution has taken centre stage in the African game of football, and that Zimbabwe can also do the same if the right measures are taken.

What is ironic is that Congo Brazzaville had a foreign coach in the form of Frenchman Claude Le Roy, who also coached the Democratic Republic of Congo sometime back, while the DRC themselves had a local coach in the form of Florent Ibenge.

This means Zimbabwe has a difficult choice in picking the new pilot for the Warriors – whether to entrust our destiny in the hands of a foreign coach or a local handler.

One thing that is clear is that we have tried coaches from different parts of the world — Germany, Ghana, Scotland, Brazil, Switzerland and Poland — but none of them managed to take the Warriors anywhere.

The fact is that Zimbabwe’s past successes came through the hands of local coaches — Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhaluri — who took the Warriors to the 2004 and 2006 Africa Cup of Nations finals, although our appearances ended in the first round on both occasions.

What is also not a secret is the fact that Zifa do not have the finances to pay a foreign coach and because of that, the Warriors will have to do with a local coach. The million dollar question however, is who ?

This is the starting point. Zifa need to appoint a national coach right now and then the team will follow later, unlike in the past when the team has been assembled before the coach was appointed.

Take it or leave it, Norman Mapeza is the best coach we have around.

He has been with the Warriors before but faced too many distractions.

From his playing days as captain of the Warriors to his early coaching days at CAPS United, Monomotapa and now FC Platinum, Mapeza has always commanded the respect of team-mates and players alike.

His league championship at Monoz, the Chibuku Super Cup and a fourth place finish at FC Platinum after taking the team after the halfway mark, speaks volumes of his coaching capabilities.

I speak to Mapeza regularly and he has made it clear that he is still interested in steering the Warriors ship, even though he is owed thousands of dollars by Zifa.

He says he is willing to work for his country for as long as he is called to do so. All that remains is for Zifa to make that approach despite the past differences.

Fine, there is no way that Mapeza — if called for duty — can work for free, but Zifa can take comfort in the fact that the man is also being well taken care of financially by his current employers FC Platinum. Therefore Zifa will not have too much pressure in terms of his payment.

There is another school of thought which believes that Under-23 mentor Kalisto Pasuwa, who won four consecutive league titles with Dynamos, should be entrusted with the Warriors job.

But club football and senior national team football are two different ball games and my view is that Pasuwa should remain with the Young Warriors and should only come in as Mapeza’s assistant.

The qualifiers for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations are starting later this year and Zifa have to move fast and appoint the national coach.

They also need to ensure that funds are available for the coach to experiment to his heart’s content with the players in international friendlies without worrying too much about immediate results.

Between now and the qualifiers in September, is the idyllic interlude for the coach to build a strong team for the future.

Unfortunately, Zimbabwean football administrators are known for doing things at the last minute.

The coach has to come in right now and friendly matches organised with top African football nations instead of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland who have nothing to offer.

If our Young Warriors can go and beat the Swaziland senior national team, what do we expect our senior national team to benefit or learn from such an opposition? NOTHING.

We play Zambia regularly in the Cosafa Castle Cup while South Africa do not take us seriously and usually field second or third string opposition in friendlies against us. These too, should not be considered.

We need to go north and west of Africa to try to play the likes of Tunisia, Egypt, Algeria, Ghana’s Black Stars, Ivory Coast, and the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon, if we are to be competitive again.

Now is the time to do that instead of waiting until the last minute, when big games are nearer.

But is there anybody who is listening?

Of Zifa, Dube and the ministry I received a lot of responses with regards to the debate regarding the impasse between Zifa and the Ministry of Sport, Arts and Culture, and below are some of the reactions.

One Michael Ncube wrote: “Sorry sir. We don’t need Cuthbert Dube anymore. Money or no money. If you want him pliz [please] form your own Zifa and give him your cash and leave our government alone.”

Dynamos supporter Felix Moto had this to say: “Thanks for telling the deputy minister the truth. The government has to first put money into football before they talk of results. You don’t reap where you did not sow.”

Maximillan Ngulube had this to say: “We don’t care about the Fifa ban.

We are already banned because we are not competing with the best in Africa. So where is the difference?. Dube must go. Ban or no ban, we need to start afresh.”

Gerald Murungweni wrote: “I think we are getting everything wrong.

The ministry and Zifa should sit down and see where things are going wrong. The solution does not lie in chasing away Cuthbert Dube but in giving him the required resources.”

Andrew Murozvi had this to say: “I think you got it all wrong from the deputy minister. She said those who are willing to bail out Zifa cannot do so because of Cuthbert Dube and his team. They should just go.”

What do you think?

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