On July 9, at the 45 000-seater Royal Bafokeng Stadium in South Africa, Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) and Cosafa president Philip Chiyangwa found himself confronting the truth.
insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Soon after the presentation of the Cosafa Castle Cup to Zimbabwe captain Ovidy Karuru, Chiyangwa raised his hands high in jubilation, joining the Warriors in celebration.
After realising that this was not the right platform to show his allegiance to the Zimbabwean team, the Cosafa president then dropped his hands.
However, there was no need for Chiyangwa to put his hands by his side. The Zifa boss became Cosafa president because he was Zifa president and Zimbabwe comes first before Cosafa. So, it was okay for him to celebrate.
Today, however, Chiyangwa does not need to hide his love for the Zimbabwean team. He will be free to show his delight after the Warriors wallop the Brave Warriors of Namibia, and for that matter, at home, at the National Sports Stadium.
This afternoon’s match is not a Cosafa game and so, the Zifa president is free to leave his Cosafa hat at home and join thousands of Zimbabwean football followers in supporting the Warriors steamroll over the Brave Warriors — a Cosafa brother.
So, go Warriors go.
Was Afcon expansion necessary?
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) have increased participating nations in Africa’s biggest football competition — the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) — from 16 to 24 teams, 19 years after the teams were last increased from 12 to 16.
This is a 50% increase and it means almost half of the countries that make up the CAF would be at the African football festival in Cameroon come 2019.
Fine, Uefa increased their teams for the European Championships from 16 to 24, and teams for the World Cup have also been increased from 32 to 48, but that does not mean Africa should do the same, considering the facilities that most of the countries have.
Although it is good for a new leadership to be seen to be doing something, observers have quickly pointed out that the latest move by Caf dilutes the quality of competition while trying to appease those who voted for Madagascar’s Ahmed Ahmed in the Caf presidential elections — the majority of whom are from the Cosafa region.
It is a fact that due to the high standards of north and west African teams, southern African nations have struggled to qualify for the Afcon and the latest move is aimed at sneaking them through the back door.
For the record, only five teams from the Cosafa region — Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe — have been to the Nations Cup in the tournament’s 60-year history — with Zambia winning the contest only once in 2012, otherwise the title has changed hands between north and west African nations.
Although the latest developments will give opportunities to new players and also bring about improvements to stadia facilities, the fact remains that a compact 16-team contest brought more competition and excitement to the tournament.
Expanding it to 24 teams will only help to accommodate weak footballing nations who do not deserve to be part of the festival.
Football is football and Zimbabwe, just like other southern African countries, should earn their right to participate in the Afcon instead of getting that passage on a silver platter.
At the rate things are going, it would not be surprising that when the next Caf elections come, there would be a proposal to increase participating teams at Afcon to all the African nations.
Chunga sets the tone
Love him or hate him, Moses Chunga is a man of surprises. The former Warriors captain and 1986 Castle Soccer Star of the Year included his son, Madalitso, in the Young Warriors squad for the Cosafa Under-17 Championships currently running in Mauritius.
Whatever the public thinks, it is a bold decision by the man they call Bambo because nowhere is it written that a coach cannot include his relatives in his team as long as they are good enough to justify their inclusion.
The point is that Chunga is trying to come up with the best junior football talent available as a foundation to building a strong Warriors for the future — even if it means taking criticism by including his own son.
To show how serious he is, Bambo went out of his way, travelling to all the four parts of the country, picking up players from different places and more importantly, of the right age.
“Zimbabwe is a multi-racial country, and so should be our football,” said Bambo in his jocular manner, but emphasising his point after including Calum English-Brown, Ismail Nabil, and Kyle Nathanson in his squad.
The truth is that Zimbabwe has to move forward. Age has already swept away Willard Katsande and Cuthbert Malajila from the Warriors set up.
There is also no way that the Warriors will still have the likes of George Chigova, Onismo Bhasera, Costa Nhamoinesu, Eric Chipeta and Thabani Kamusoko after the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations finals.
Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona are not getting any younger either, and Zimbabwe should have players waiting on the wings to take over once the likes of the “Silent Assassin” call it a day.
Whatever the results would be in Mauritius, the idea would be to keep this Under-17 team together and let it graduate to become the Zimbabwe Under-20 team, and later the Zimbabwe Under-23 squad, and finally the Warriors.
Other talented youngsters coming through this transitional period would be fitted into the squad when they come to the fore. That is the way successful football nations like Germany and England, are going about their business.
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