FC PLATINUM’S recent elimination from the CAF Champions League at the preliminary stage and, worse still, on a 5-1 drubbing by a team that is not among the best on the continent clearly shows the disastrous path that Zimbabwean football is moving on.
By MICHAEL KARIATI
The humiliation of the Zimbabwean champions comes after a Warriors side of locally-based players — under the guidance of the revered Sunday Chidzambwa — failed to qualify for the 2018 African Nations Championships (Chan) after losing to — of all the teams — lightweights Namibia.
Not forgetting the Zimbabwe Under-17 and Under-20 teams which failed to go beyond the group stages of the 2017 Cosafa Youth Championships, with the Under-17 side losing all their games and coming back home empty-handed.
It should be placed on record that signs of the Warriors’ pedestal fall were evident at the 2016 Chan in Rwanda where the Zimbabweans were one of the worst, if not the worst, teams at the 16-nation championships.
At that tournament, the Warriors, then under the guidance of Kalisto Pasuwa, came back home after picking up only one point and scoring only one goal in the three matches they took part in.
Making it even worse is the fact that since 2010 only one Zimbabwean team, CAPS United, has managed to reach the mini-league stage in pan-African football, with the rest losing out in the preliminary stages or in the first round.
What is really disturbing is that those running the game do not seem to find any fault with Zimbabwe’s disastrous path. However, administrators insist all is well, but when the Zimbabwean club champions are losing 5-1 to a team from Angola, and the Warriors are losing to Namibia, what does that tell?
The truth is that Zimbabwean football is in crisis and what those in the corridors of power should be asking themselves is: Where are we getting it wrong and what needs to be done to avoid Zimbabwe joining the likes of Reunion, Mauritius, Lesotho, and Seychelles, among the weakest footballing nations in the world?
The answer is simple. Zimbabwe needs to change in the way they are doing things and abandon this thirst for immediate results. Those at Zifa and the Premier Soccer League should not look far away, but at neighbouring Zambia, and see how they are doing their things.
Zambian clubs Zanaco and Zesco are riding high in African football with Zesco going as far as the semi-finals of the 2016 CAF Champions League before losing out to eventual winners Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa.
The Chipolopolo were at Chan and their Africa Cup of Nations [Afcon] squad are strong contenders for the African title and are proud winners of the Afcon title, that honour coming in 2012.
Their Under-20 team is now ranked the fifth best team in the world and reached the quarter-finals of the 2017 Under-20 World Cup finals in South Korea. Twice this Zambian youth side has qualified for the Under-17 World Cup finals.
Yet in Zimbabwe, there is no junior football to talk about at all. The Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 teams are hastily assembled and given only a week in camp before a game or a tournament. These teams are disbanded after every tournament and a new team and a new coach are brought on board the next time there is a game.
This is the opposite of Zambia where there is a conveyor belt system where the good Under-17 players graduate to the Under-20 and those in the Under-20 go to the Under-23 with the final destination being the Chipolopolo national side.
At a time, Zambia’s Patson Daka was voted CAF’s 2017 Young Player of the Year, Zimbabwe has over the years failed to produce truly gifted young players with the ability to break into the international limelight.
With the Warriors going through a period of decline and standards in the premiership also plummeting, the truth is that Zimbabwean football is walking a tightrope and something needs to be done to rescue it.
The question is: Who will rescue the game from this freefall?
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