Kalisto Pasuwa is widely regarded as the most successful coach in Zimbabwean football history, but despite his unmatched achievements, “Marabhundu” has always had his critics.
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Critics have always questioned his ability to handle a team like the Warriors at major competitions like the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals and the Africa Nations Championships (Chan), contending that he needs a technical advisor.
At one time, even his employers at the Zimbabwe Football Association wanted to hire a technical advisor for the national team ahead of the 2017 Afcon finals despite the fact that it was Pasuwa who led the team to qualification in the first place.
Pasuwa appeared to give credence to his critics after his Warriors came back from the 2016 Africa Nations Championships having picked up only one point and scoring only one goal in three matches.
This also came after his Dynamos team of 2012 was massacred 7-1 by Esperance of Tunisia on aggregate after losing the first leg 6-0 in Tunis before a one-all draw to crash out of the second round of the Caf Champions League.
The following year, Pasuwa was also in charge when Dynamos were knocked out of the first round of the Caf Champions League by Club Bizertin, also of Tunisia, but this time 3-1 on aggregate.
As the Warriors head for the Afcon finals, focus is once again on Pasuwa’s ability to stand his ground against high-profile opponents at a tournament where most of the teams are coached by foreign handlers.
Pasuwa, along with Senegal’s Aliou Cisse and Florent Ibengé of the Democratic Republic of Congo, will be the only local coaches at the continental football fiesta.
Although he has four consecutive league titles and managed to qualify Zimbabwe to the Afcon, Pasuwa is well aware that everything he has achieved will be judged against how his team will perform at the Nations Cup finals.
He knows that elimination in the first round will make him no different from those who have been there before, notably Sunday Chidzambwa and Charles Mhlauri — who both came back home with three points from three matches from the 2004 and 2006 finals.
Pasuwa is also aware that failure to go beyond the group stages would also mean losing his $7 000-a-month job, and all the perks that go with it.
“We are not going there to make up the numbers but to compete. The fact that we qualified means we are as good as any of the other teams which have also made it. People can underestimate us at their own peril,” said Pasuwa.
As was the case at both the 2004 and 2006 finals, the draw has not been generous for Zimbabwe, pitting the Warriors against African football powerhouses like Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia — all of them among Africa’s top five ranked teams.
A win against the Desert Foxes of Algeria in Zimbabwe’s opening match on January 15 at the Stade de Franceville Stadium will set the tone for the remainder of their campaign.
This is the time for Pasuwa to prove the doubting Thomases wrong.
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