ZIMBABWE and Liverpool legend Bruce Grobbelaar has shed tears over the chaotic state of local football and says he is more than ready to help in reviving the wounded game, first as Warriors coach and then as Zifa president.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Under the current Zifa regime led by Cuthbert Dube, Zimbabwean football has descended to the deepest level of mediocrity headlined by the country’s expulsion from the 2018 Fifa World Cup campaign.
Grobbelaar told Standardsport in an exclusive interview last week that total transformation was needed, beginning with the purging of the current Zifa leadership to create ground for a fresh start.
Since his last role in Zimbabwean football at the turn of the millennium while working in the Warriors technical department with Sunday Chidzambwa, talks for a permanent job were stalled by a stalemate in contract negotiations.
Capped 33 times as Zimbabwe goalkeeper in a two-spell Warriors career between 1980 to 1985 and 1992 to 2000, Grobbelaar has worked four times as Warriors player-coach.
The Canada-based 57-year-old is currently goalkeepers’ coach at Ottawa Fury in the North American Soccer League.
Following Kalisto Pasuwa’s recent resignation as Warriors coach in protest over unpaid salaries, Zifa’s chances of convincing the frustrated former Dynamos mentor to return appear slim.
Grobbelaar, however, said he would only take up the Warriors job under a new Zifa administration and after guarantees of healthy working conditions were made.
“If Zifa approaches me, I will not decline to come as a coach,” Grobbelaar told Standardsport last week.
“They have to convince me so that I can commit myself to build the team for the 2019 and 2021 Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon], as well as the 2022 World Cup. The contract should be drawn by lawyers and payments coming every month. So if they want me, I will not say ‘no’ but all must be stable and financially secure for that vision.
“Now that we are out of the 2018 World Cup, the new coach should start as soon as possible to build the team for the 2022 edition, get the Under-17, 20s and 23s to play regularly.”
“But I do not see any change at Zifa anytime soon and I feel the Ministry of Sports should lead in solving the problems we are facing. If Zimbabwe wants to move forward, let us get the right people in place. The structure of Zifa has to change and also backing of the government is crucially needed.
“There are so many good and passionate people in Zimbabwe who could lead our football. We need a dedicated person to take over Zifa.”
Warriors players often clashed with Zifa during Grobbelaar’s playing days, especially during the Leo Mugabe era. Players would protest against Zifa’s alleged misuse of funds meant for their bonuses. Grobbelaar said the chaotic situation at Zifa had now reached unprecedented levels as compared to back then.
“Zifa has always had problems since our time, but now it has gotten worse. It is almost unmanageable problems. Back then we used to have a lot of outsiders to help us with bonuses after matches, but now there is no one to help the team. Right now there is no guarantee that players will get their money,” he said.
In another interview with Standardsport three years ago, Grobbelaar explained how they would always be at loggerheads with Zifa officials.
“I can tell you when I was caretaker coach with Marimo [Chidzambwa] in a four-team tournament in South Africa, we had a problem with officials from Zifa! Chidzambwa and myself managed to get the money that was promised to the players before the officials had spent or gambled it away. The story is quite humourous,” he said then. Grobbelaar feels he can also play a starring role as an administrator to resuscitate the Warriors’ waning fortunes.
He said apart from his coaching interests, he could only take up the Zifa leadership role after playing a part in the Warriors’ dugout.
“I am still young enough to coach Zimbabwe. But when I become mudhara stereki [older] then I will consider heading Zifa. I am older than Kalusha Bwalya, but look, he is the president of Football Association of Zambia and he has taken Zambian football to another high,” said Grobbelaar. “It is always good to have former footballers as coaches or administrators. Benjani [Mwaruwari], Ephraim Chawanda and Peter [Ndlovu] can assist in coaching because of their football experiences at the highest level. Besides they are loved by the people of Zimbabwe.”
Grobbelaar is a keen follower of the local game and says the Warriors trip to Malawi for an Afcon qualifier by bus in June was a blessing in disguise for the team.
“From what I have seen in African football, Zimbabweans are the most intelligent footballers on the continent. Believe me on this one. When under pressure they know how to handle everything. Look, we recently beat Malawi after the team travelled by bus. In as much as it was not an ideal situation I am sure there was a lot of team building on that bus.
“Maybe we can travel to assignments in Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and South Africa by bus for team building along the way,” he said with a chuckle. Grobbelaar remains the most successful goalkeeper ever to play in England having racked with Liverpool six English Premier League titles, three FA Cups, three League Cups and a Uefa Champions League title.