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Move in the right direction

Today’s international friendly match between the Warriors and Zambia’s Chipolopolo is a step in the right direction on the part of Zifa.

insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI

Norman Mapeza
Norman Mapeza

The Warriors need many friendly matches to sustain a realistic challenge of qualifying for both the 2018 Africa Nations Championships (Chan) and the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals (Afcon) and such matches play a significant role in the build-up.

The Warriors have been drawn to play Namibia in the first round and they will face the winner of the game between Lesotho and Comoros in the final qualifying round for the Chan finals in a competition whose qualifying process is done on regional basis.

They have been to every edition of the Chan finals since the tournament was introduced in 2007, and the Warriors cannot afford to miss out on the tournament this time around.

The fifth edition of the Chan finals will be held in Kenya from January 11 to February 2 next year and the Warriors need to be part of the elite group of locally -based national team players.

The Zimbabweans are also in a tough 2019 Afcon qualifying group in which they have been drawn to face the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Liberia.

Zifa’s appointment of Norman Mapeza and the coach’s acceptance of the job show maturity on the part of the national football controlling body and the FC Platinum gaffer.

The football federation owes Mapeza over $100 000 for his previous stint as the Warriors coach but Mapeza has let bygones be bygones and accepted one of the most demanding, if not the toughest job, in Zimbabwean sport.

Mapeza helped the Warriors to qualify for the 2011 Chan finals, but his reign was characterised by clashes with the the Cuthbert Dube-led Zifa. This dented the Warriors’ chances of making it to the 2012 Afcon finals.

Madinda Ndlovu had been thrown into the fray to work alongside Mapeza and the outcome was disastrous. Zimbabwe were held to a goalless draw at home by Cape Verde and lost the return leg 2-0 to bow out of the tournament.

Mapeza is a favourite with the Zimbabwean football public and his parting ways with the Warriors in 2011 provoked anger from football followers. And now that he is back, albeit on a caretaker basis, the fans are ready to give him all the support he requires.

Mapeza has shown his desire to qualify for the Chan and Afcon by calling local and foreign-based players for the Zambian friendly, including on-fire Orlando Pirates striker Tendai Ndoro, who unfortunately will miss the game through injury.

Zifa have always struggled to pay national coaches and they owe not only Mapeza, but Sunday Chidzambwa, Ian Gorowa, and Kalisto Pasuwa. However, Mapeza is coming back on a different position.

The former Warriors captain has a good paying job at FC Platinum and is willing to work for the national team at a fee Zifa can afford.

As a build up to both the 2018 Chan and the 2019 Afcon finals, the Warriors need many international friendly matches and this should not begin and end with the game against Zambia.

It is a fact that Zifa does not have money to host those matches. However, there are many countries with money that are willing to visit Zimbabwe for such matches as they also prepare for national assignments.

As long as Zifa are able to attract high quality opposition to Zimbabwe like Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Egypt or African champions Cameroon, they are bound to get huge financial returns through crowd attendances.

Zifa was heavily criticised for the manner the Warriors prepared for the 2017 Afcon finals and now is the time for it to make amends.

The Zambians’ visit is a step in the right direction and more games like that should follow.

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